I felt as if a python was squeezing my belly, which was fluttering with an entourage of butterflies. I clenched and unclenched my sweaty palms in a rhythmic motion and tried to keep a straight face. Words and alphabets randomly swam before my eyes and I tried my utmost to concentrate on anything but the event, which loomed ominously before me--the first round of the Dawn spelling bee!
You probably think I was one of the participants at the spelling bee. I mean only a student who was about to face a bombardment of words of the fickle English language, resembling the incessant, deafening firing from a canon, could experience the myriad of emotions rushing through my entire system. Well, you're wrong. I was the teacher responsible for training and chaperoning the students who had crammed for the spelling contest.
The late afternoon sun mercilessly beat down upon us as I ushered my three young students, aged to 13 to 15, representing the school where I taught English, into the sprawling hall at the far corner of the Expo Centre premises.
All this occurred three years ago, the very first time when Dawn had organized such a competition. That morning a fellow teacher had accompanied the 10 and 12 year olds for the initial rounds and they had returned, albeit without success, much wiser and armed with a truckload of experience and healthy exposure to last them their academic lifetime.
As we registered our names and I helped the students pin their identification tags, I struggled to put on a brave front. I realized the students were looking to me for moral support amidst this swarming crowd of strangers in an assortment of crisp uniforms, who were also their rivals. We had more than an hour to...