On occasion, I go back and look through a farrago of memorabilia that I have collected through the years I participated in spelling bees. Perhaps some of my favorite things to look at are my two "Bee Keepers." For those unfamiliar with this tradition, each year at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Scripps puts together something of a yearbook. It's a small booklet with a page for each speller. The speller's page has a picture of them, their hometown, their sponsor, and a few other facts about them. The idea is that as spellers meet each other, they exchange Bee Keepers and sign their respective pages. This is a great way to introduce yourself to people and make potentially lifelong friends. Yet, each year, spellers face a dilemma: should I study, or should I socialize? The answer: both. Spend some time studying while you're there, but you've already worked so hard for so long: don't lock yourself away and lose opportunities for friendship. You will get so much more out of the experience if you meet people and talk to them a little bit. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I would propose that Scripps add one point to a speller's Preliminaries score (the score that qualifies you for the finals if you get your first two words right on stage) if they get a predetermined number of signatures in their Bee Keeper by a predetermined time, to remove some of the worry about having to stay in and study. For instance, any speller getting 100 signatures by Tuesday night at 8 pm might qualify a speller for a point toward their score.
It might seem tempting to study every spare second when are at the national bee. Giving up many opportunities for connection with other spellers may not be worth it. Some studying is good, a lot of studying, even, but if you refuse to socialize altogether, I believe unequivocally that you are missing out on a major part of the purpose of the week. Because I took a little time off of studying while I was at the national bee, I met so many new people and experienced so many new things (such as witnessing the chief editor of Merriam-Webster playing "Happy Birthday" on the trumpet!). People study instead of socializing because they want to do better in the bee, but if Scripps were to give a point for Bee Keeper signatures, it would encourage many to socialize just a little bit in addition to their studying. By deciding to socialize while I was at the national spelling bee, I met so many people who I still am in contact with, and some of them have become the most important people in my life. The social aspect of the national spelling bee has done so much for me, and I propose that this point be given for Bee Keeper signatures because I want other people to feel the impact of that, too, and not have to worry about studying endlessly even while at the national bee.