Sunday, September 11, 2011

Psychology - "You Know Better"

This picture of myself on the left, my sister, Betty, and little brother, Leslie, could illustrate so many different memories - only one of which is the way we used to dress him up and then act out "plays". (No need to comment upon the subject matter of this one.)

However, I am using this picture because it shows me around the age I was when I heard my teacher say, "Ramona, you know better than that!". Or maybe it was "You should have known better", there are several variations on the theme of doing something wrong when we obviously knew what was right.

Spelling and reading were two of my favourite subjects. Spelling and reading just happened to be the two subjects for which annual county-wide contests were held. They began with several country schools getting together to compete in order to determine first and second place winners who would go on to vie for county champion.

I have no exact memory of the reading contests, nor of any of the other spelling contests - just the one when I was in 8th grade. It was my last chance to beat all the other Jasper township kids and advance to Corning for the finals. I was feeling pretty confident - after all, I was in 8th grade and had plenty of experience. My teacher, Mrs. Kimball, had been helping me prepare for the contest with longer and more difficult spelling lists. She thought I had a very good chance, also.

We met with three other Jasper schools - #3, #4 and #5 (our school was #2) - for the spell down. I was doing great until I was given the word psychology. I believe I spelled it something like
p-h-y-s-o-c-o-l-g-y. Whatever, it was wrong. I wasn't going to be in the county finals. Seventh grader, Connie Septer from Jasper #4, advanced and went on to win second-place county-wide. Larry Palma from the Prescott area was the champion that year.

Mrs. Kimball didn't say anything to me at the spell down. She knew how disappointed I was in myself. She didn't add to my embarrassment in front of the other students. I think our contest was on Friday and she didn't even say anything until the following Monday when she had me spell psychology to her in the relative privacy of our own school. I spelled it correctly, of course, which is when she said, "You knew better" regarding my fiasco.

As I look back at this memory from the advantage of some fifty-five years experience, I find it ironic that the definition of my misspelled word is: "the science of behavior and mental processes". Did my own smug complacence about winning trip me up? Or did I crack under the pressure of competition?

Perhaps just worrying about how to spell a word was enough to cause my failure that day. I never participated in any more spelling bees, contests or spell downs, but I maintained my good spelling mantle, many times being asked by others "how do you spell......?". It has only been the last two or three years that I have noticed my spelling prowess decreasing. I no longer worry about how to spell psychology, but I do wonder and worry whether not remembering how to spell a word is an early sign of dementia.

P-s-y-c-h-o-l-o-g-y: the science of mental processes.

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