Almost everyone at the Starbucks this morning was talking about “The King’s Speech,” the recently released film about King George VI and his relationship with his speech therapist. While I agreed with the caffeinated crowd’s overall judgment (“It’s great!”), I was particularly taken by how Lionel, the therapist, achieved the breakthrough with his patient, “Bertie.”
Those two names are important because, as Lionel well knows, they suggest an equality that could not otherwise exist. By shrinking social distance and increasing the level of personal engagement, Lionel is able to give Bertie what he needs in order to become a king.
At boys schools we talk a lot about individual attention and engagement for much the same reason. Marbles in the mouth, another speech teacher’s technique, is not the key. Neither are impressive academic credentials. (Lionel fudges on those.) What matters is having a caring and skilled adult who is able to engage and perhaps even ignite a student’s curiosity.
All of us have impediments. Stutters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. What a boy needs is someone to believe in him and work with him — to help him become the man he needs to be.