More than Just the Test Scores
Emma Wong, Division 1, 6th grade #ws18e-s3d1

When I was in fourth grade, I was chosen to participate in my school’s spelling bee among the fourth and fifth graders. Through this nerve-wracking experience, I learned something that was not taught in my school’s classroom: tenacity. Tenacity is a persevering, steadfast quality which prepares kids to face challenges in the real world. Besides focusing on students’ test scores, I strongly believe that the quality of tenacity should be promoted in grade school education. When I was preparing for the contest, I got dizzy just by looking at my long and dreadful spelling bee study guide. How could anyone ever memorize such a long word like ichthyosaurus or rhododendron!? I thought the older kids had a much higher chance at winning: after all, they had done more tests and read more books. However, I later realized that it was not smarts or memory that got me through the competition. It was a sense of tenacity.

As the spelling bee day hovered closer with each day on the calendar, my anxiety grew to an agonizing extent. Each contestant was to study ten long columns of complicated words in a short span of two months. My days of studying were tedious, laborious, and overall one of the most overwhelming experiences I have ever had. I constantly fumbled on awfully long words, such as ichthyosaurus. However, despite this constant cycle of failing, I had developed a sense of endurance. This made me focus on the end goal rather than my mistakes. In fact, each failure had actually turned into a learning experience. On the day of the bee, I was still tremendously nervous, but surprisingly, my palms did not grow sweaty whenever I was asked a word. As it turned out, my days of continuous, irritating studying had finally paid off on the day of my first spelling bee.

What if all students had a sense of such perseverance towards their education goals? A study by award-winning researcher Angela Duckworth shows that students with persevering attitudes are much more likely to graduate. It was not just their test scores, memory capacity, or their IQ alone that had significance in the long run. In fact, kids with tenacity can learn from failures and focus on growth. To promote this quality in schools, students should be encouraged to share their struggles, along with how they learned from them. Students’ tenacious qualities should be awarded like those of test scores in the education system. It will prepare them to face challenges both in school and in life. 

So, did I win the spelling bee after all? No. I came in second after twelve long and intense rounds. Nonetheless, I came home feeling relieved. I had reached my goal, which was to go as far as I could in the contest. During the competition, I was asked to spell ichthyosaurus. I can gladly say that I nailed it.\
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