Moving on

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I’m not in the business of movie reviews, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to rave about “The King’s Speech.”  The only thing I found disappointing was the fact that this historically accurate account of King George VI’s battle with stuttering was not derived from a book that could be devoured post-cinema. 

Bertie, as he was known, suffered considerable angst in public speaking roles long before his brother David abdicated the throne to marry divorcee Wallace Simpson.  His problems started early on, most likely related to the forced use of his right hand over his natural left hand.  His parents, George V and Queen Mary, ineptly turned their children over to an abusive nanny who often withheld food as punishment.  One account contends that the stammering began shortly after returning from an extended stay with his doting grandparents, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, where Bertie found safe and loving refuge from his distant mother and cold, demanding father. 

In addition to portraying the strength, persistence and dedication of one tormented king, the movie effectively wove the story of his unique speech therapist, Lionel Logue.  Logue’s expertise was derived from first-hand treatment of WWI veterans whose exposure to shell-shock left them with impaired speech.  While the king’s advisors derided his lack of “proper papers,” Bertie stayed with him with increasingly effective results.  Logue’s methods included singing, breathing and vocal exercises, reciting tongue-twisters, and reading over loud music.   He coached the King through every major speech during WWII, and he was inducted into the Royal Victorian Order for his service.  Bertie went on to become a compassionate and effective leader with little or no residual speech impediment.  The two remained close friends until the King’s death.

Whether you marvel at the survival, even the triumph of one beleaguered royal, or the innately brilliant work of one unlettered therapist, you will appreciate the significant mental and emotional integrity of both King George VI and Lionel Logue.  

Thursday, December 23, 2010


My friend, Karol Matthews, has been instrumental in spearheading a tutoring program called “The ROC” (Reach Out Charlotte) in a low-income area in North Charlotte. Since September 2010 she and a small group of dedicated individuals have gathered once a week to tutor children after school in an apartment donated by the management. Karol pulls together all her years of expertise with the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading, both with the students she tutors and the willing adult volunteers who have had little or no formal training.

When The Fletcher School, where Karol and I teach, put out an appeal for suggestions for a Middle School service project, Karol couldn’t get to the office fast enough. The school embraced the idea and before long, a spirited plan evolved. Approximately 75 students brought in shoeboxes filled with small toys, toiletries, school supplies, mittens and hats, modeled after Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.

On the last day of school before Christmas break the students worked in mixed-age groups to organize and wrap the boxes, write personal letters to the recipients, and make a card for the family. Many of the letters that these privileged students with learning disabilities wrote to the less fortunate recipients of the boxes brought smiles and tears to more than one teacher.

Today I was privileged to take part in the party where the boxes were distributed to an appreciative crowd of children and young adults, along with a message of hope and warm coats that were generously donated by some who got wind of the project and wanted to make a contribution.

As one of the students at The Fletcher School said, “I hope they enjoy opening this as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.” We teachers call that a “teachable moment,” and I can assure you, the moment was well received today.