Sunday, May 26, 2013

A National Spelling Bee, Another Year in Morocco, and Home Leave

A field trip to the Chellah, an archaeological site with both Roman and
 ancient  Moroccan ruins was part of the National Finals experience.
I see by looking back that it's been over a six months since I made a post. That's no way to write a blog, but it's the sad fact of the matter. I won't impose on your good will by trying to catch you up on everything that's happened over that time, but I will tell you about two big developments - my big project, Spelling Bee Morocco, went national, and I've extended my Peace Corps service for a third year.

Spelling Bee Morocco

After last year's successful launch on a regional level, Spelling Bee Morocco expanded into a national event this year and ended with the first ever national championship being held in Rabat, the capital, April 7-10.

Hoping for some magic in the Team Championship
I partnered with a regional chapter of the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English the first year and with the national board this year. The response was tremendous. We set a goal of registering 125 schools (25 participated the first year), but we ended up registering over 350! We weren't prepared for that. It caused a good deal of stress and need for improvisation, but lots of people - both Peace Corps Volunteers and Moroccans - stepped up and we worked our way through.

A contestant visualizes the spelling by writing on her palm
before spelling out loud in the Solo Championship.
In the end, we trained nearly 500 teachers, which gave us a potential of reaching 60,000 students with the spelling bee activity. Two hundred schools held school championships involving about 6,000 students and sent their top spellers to 25 district championships. The top finishers at the districts advanced to six regional championships, which sent 36 competitors on to the national finals. There, we crowned the first ever national champions in both team and solo events. Because the students came from as far as 14 hours away, the nationals were a multi-day event with a couple of field trips and other activities in addition to the competition. It was really a great experience for all concerned.

Judges conferring over a disputed point during the competition

I'm Extending My Service

The growth of Spelling Bee Morocco led to the second big development - my decision to extend my service for a third year. My role these first two years has been very much one of organizer and implementer, but I'll be taking on more of a consulting role next year. My plan is to help with the continued growth of the event as it expands into the remainder of the country but, more importantly, to focus on sustainability issues. There will be other changes as well. I'll be moving from the remote village I've lived in since I've been in Morocco to Rabat, the capital city.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would have COSed this month (COS is an acronym turned verb for Close of Service). Instead, I've just come home to the States for a month's home leave prior to my final year. While here, I'm planning a busman's holiday to Washington DC to take in the finals of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee and a trip to New York to attend BookExpo America and reconnect with many of my old book industry friends. I'll be spending the rest of my time in West Michigan with my family and friends.

I've been back about a week now. So far I haven't experienced any of the reverse culture shock we're warned about. Mostly, all I have to say is - How sweet it is!



  1. would be interesting if the spelling bee was broadcasted on Moroccan national TV

    shak from Marrakech

  2. Nice! Congratulations on the success of the Spelling Bee in Morocco. Enjoy your time in the US.