In a bee, just as in every project or organization, each person has a role to fulfill. Arguably, the role of pronouncer is the most important role of all. So what does the pronouncer have to do? Well, from the first post in this series, the pronouncer should pronounce the words…and pronounce them correctly.

Let’s address the second lesson:

“The pronouncer’s role is to pronounce and give pertinent information about the word, and to spell the word correctly when a student misspells. Nothing more.”

I want to address those last two words: “nothing more.” The pronouncer is, by and large, not a commentator. It is fine for the pronouncer to be cordial and greet spellers, but he or she should remain impartial to each one. It is not appropriate for a pronouncer to make comments before the speller begins to spell like “Just sound it out,” since it may place undue pressure on the speller. It is not appropriate after a misspelling for the pronouncer to make comments such as “Well, here is where asking such-and-such question would have really come in handy”; this can make a speller feel even more remorse about what they should have done. The pronouncer is also not there to provide emotional support for spellers once they have been eliminated; that is what families, friends, and coaches are there for. Once a speller misses, a simple “I’m sorry,” and the correct spelling is all that is needed for the pronouncer to say. It may seem a bit harsh to say this, and I acknowledge that in such a high-stress environment, it is easy to root for each speller and feel a bit crushed if/when they are eliminated. But during the bee, the pronouncer should remain outwardly impartial, regardless of any inner emotion.

If there’s any other question about how a pronouncer should act while “on stage,” I actually recommend watching a national bee and observing the demeanor of pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly. He is polite, friendly, and occasionally engages in succinct banter with the spellers if it is appropriate, but he is not partial to any speller. His overriding service is to the bee…and his professional demeanor by and large dictates the tenor of the bee. To many spellers (and to the public at large), Dr. Bailly is actually the face and voice of the bee, and he sets a great example to follow.

Part 3 to follow.