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Nugget # 111 Life Influences from the Movie ‘Front of the Class’!

Front_of_the_Class_posterHi friends,

Hope this has been a pleasant week for you. Recently, I watched ‘Front of the Class’ which is a 2008 American drama film on the life of Nationally Recognized Teacher & Motivational Speaker Brad Cohen. This Hallmark Hall of Fame movie is based on Brad’s book Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had.

This nugget is one where instead of drawing life lessons, I’d like to highlight some inspiring people from the life of Brad Cohen, who have been influential in making him the winner he is today! Brad never let his challenges with Tourette’s come in the way of achieving his dreams.

At the onset of the movie, we find the 12 year old Brad who lives (in Missouri) with his divorcee mom Ellen and kid brother Jeff; get into all kinds of trouble with his dad as well as his teachers at school because his TS tics are unfortunately misunderstood to be his antics!  He is labelled the prankster and in one rather disturbing scene in the movie, he is made by his teacher to go to the front of the class and apologize for his disturbing behavior and promise that he would never to do that again. Brad’s mum, in her quest for answers lands up in a library where she comes across Tourette’s syndrome in a medical book. Hopefully, she seeks professional advice from a Doctor who agrees on her diagnosis (on the basis of symptoms) that Brad may be having TS but informs them that TS was incurable. In an effort to find others with TS, Brad’s mother drags him into a support group. Here, he finds a sorry group of people who have accepted TS as their disability & surrendered themselves to a secondary existence, giving up any dreams of achieving success in life. The only lesson Brad learns from them is never to become victims of TS like them. award

BRAD’S MUM- WHO ALWAYS BELIEVED IN HER SON & ENCOURAGED HIM NEVER TO GIVE UP HIS DREAM OF BECOMING A TEACHER ONE DAY, Tourette’s / No Tourette’s! * [A word to Parents, never underestimate the enormous role you play in molding your children’s future.]

At the beginning of middle school, Brad gets into trouble with his TS and is sent to the principal’s office who invites him to the school concert. At the end of the concert, (which is disrupted by Brad’s TS tics), the Principal calls Brad up to the stage and asks him to talk about his Tourette’s. He addresses the crowd & explains to them how TS was a disorder of the brain & that he didn’t like making the tic sounds any more than they liked hearing them, concluding that all he wanted was to be treated like anyone else. As Brad uncertainly makes his way back to his seat after his small speech, the school applauds him. It is then that Brad realizes the power of education. At this life- changing moment, Brad decides to make teaching his career.

awardTHE PRINCIPAL OF BRAD’S MIDDLE SCHOOL – who takes the time to talk to the boy about the real purpose of EDUCATION [which is to wipe out ignorance with knowledge]; more importantly, it is Mr PRINCIPAL who encourages Brad to educate the school about TS. This encouraging & noble act of his is pivotal in opening a door to a brand new world for him. Brad made that life changing decision that day – to become the Teacher he never had– *[ A word to Teachers, never get so bogged down by the never ending pending deadlines, futile inspections and heaps of test paper books for correction, that you lose sight of  the real purpose of education.]

As an adult, living in Georgia with his friend Ron, Brad’s primary focus is to get a job as a school teacher. He is used to being asked about his pet dog when interviewers call him & hear his TS related barks. We discover his amazing winning attitude as he answers those queries with humor. However, after being rejected in 24 interviews (because of his TS),we find a rather dejected Brad lying on his couch. It is at his darkest moment that Brad’s step mom visits him. Though he is definitely not pleased to meet her initially, her parting remark that ‘he had a gift to teach, and it was not in spite of his Tourette’s, but because of it ‘ gives him the strength to dream again. award

BRAD’S STEP MOM- Even though Brad does not appreciate her visit and doesn’t even make the effort to hide it, yet I love the way this amazing woman leaves him only after throwing in a spark of hope into his otherwise dismal day!  Many a time, our well-intended acts of help may be ignored, sometimes despised. Yet, we can learn from Brad’s step mom, how to do our bit;  irrespective of the response we get and then, just as she did, leave the place a little brighter than it was before. I’m sure that Brad would agree that his step mom on that day , played a major role in encouraging him not to give up, that too just before his final interview.

Soon after this, Brad finally gets his break when he gets an interview call from a school who accepts him (TS & all) & is ready to give him a chance. On the very first day, Brad explains to the children about his constant companion Tourette. He brightens their lives by bringing joy & wonder into it. He especially impresses the terminally ill Heather & helps the problem child Thomas. His out of the box teaching techniques are frowned upon at first but later on appreciated. award

THE SCHOOL WHO GAVE HIM A CHANCE- It is the Mountain View Elementary School, Georgia who accepted Brad and saw beyond the Tourette’s – which is the only thing that the other 24 schools who had rejected him had seen. I salute the Board who gave Brad both the courage & the opportunity to prove himself. We later learn that this turns out to be the schools’ best decision as Brad goes on to win the First Year Teacher of the Year Award in the State of Georgia for their School that year.   *[A word to those in authority, to those who have the opportunity to recruit others. Has prejudice ever clouded your perceptions? Do you have the eyes to see beyond the obvious? Do you look down intimidatingly/critically at that nervous/eager interviewee across the table? Wouldn’t it be better to just cut him some slack, maybe even smile as you remember how years before someone else had sat across you from that table &  believed in you enough to give you a chance?]

As regards his social life, Brad’s estranged relationship with his dad is restored & he also starts dating Nancy, who shares similar musical interests. They hit it off from the very start. When asked about whether his TS noises bothered her, she simply says Not when I compare them to the noises other guys make. You know, like, braggers, loud-talkers, egocentric, humor– challenged idiots.  Seriously, no. Your noises don’t bother me at all.” We can’t help but feel happy for Brad who has finally found his match!

awardNANCY- It’s quite refreshing to see someone who sees beyond Brad’s tics & who hears beyond his TS noises. She doesn’t even seem to notice what is obvious to everyone else. On being questioned about this, her reply is simply so profound. *[The world would be such a better place if there were more people like Nancy who see beyond the superficiality & accept/ appreciate people for who they really are.]
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At the end of the movie, like the cherry on the cake, Brad wins the Sallie Mae First Year Teacher of the Year Award for his outstanding teaching & positive role model abilities. His other victories are his Master’s degree; fulfillment of his lifelong ambition (to be dressed up as Homer-the Atlanta Braves mascot) & marrying his sweet heart Nancy in 2006. Now that’s what I call living life king-size!

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Nugget of Life: “Everyone, regardless of ability or disability, has strengths and weaknesses. Know what yours are. Build on your strengths and find a way around your weaknesses.” – Brad Cohen, (Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had)

Have a great week!

Cheers,

Sparky Laurie

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Nugget # 110 Life lessons from the movie Florence Foster Jenkins!

Florence_Foster_Jenkins_(film)Hi friends,

Hope you are doing fine. I just watched the biographical comedy –drama movie Florence Foster Jenkins (starring Meryl Streep & Hugh Grant) and strongly recommend it. The movie is based on the real life story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress and socialite who founded the Verdi Club in order celebrate her passionate love for music. Though a great lover of music and even a talented child pianist who played for the President when she was a youth, Florence had to later give up her career aspirations as a pianist due to an arm injury.

St Clair Bayfield, a British Shakespearean actor is her husband & manager. The couple are very much in love but choose to live separately due to an illness (syphilis) that Florence had contracted from her first husband. According to Mr Bayfield, theirs is more a relation of the spirit. For his other needs, he has a mistress Kathleen Weatherly whom he resides with in an apartment in the city paid for by Florence.

Florence , inspired by an opera singer, has a great desire to sing. She thus resumes her singing classes with her vocal coach, Carlo Edwards (Assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera).  She hires a new pianist Cosme McMoon who is simply shocked when he finds out that though Florence is a terrible singer, both her coach and husband hide that fact from her and pretend that she is a wonderful singer. Bayfield goes one step further and asks McMoon to do the same.

It is indeed interesting as well as enjoyable to watch the lengths to which the loyal and loving Bayfield would go to hide the painful truth from his beloved that she just cannot sing. Towards the end of the movie, in spite of all their efforts to make sure that Florence hears only the good reviews, Florence comes to know of the negative review of her recital on reading the column by Earl Wilson in the Post. On reading it, she clutches her heart and suddenly falls unconscious. Later, on gaining consciousness, she sadly asks her dear husband who is by her bedside soothing her :”Was everyone laughing at me the whole time?” We can’t but admire his truthful and yet thoughtful reply to her question . He answers: “I was never laughing at you” and adds.. “Yours is the truest voice I have ever heard.”

Life Lesson#1 : We need to speak the truth in love-  It is necessary to soften life’s blows to hearts like Florence’s. (who is actually doing no one any harm). It is the truth that she cannot sing and everyone was laughing at her but her husband replies that he never laughed at her and that he heard in her singing the truth in her voice as she sang with all her heart. It is indeed wonderful to love someone so much to tell them the truth and yet be tactful and gentle enough not to break their heart in the process. This is a skill, which I feel if developed, would easily save a lot of marriages and probably other relationships too. 

Life Lesson#2 : Pursue your passion fervently irrespective of another’s approval – Though anyone would easily agree that the woman’s singing is indeed extremely hilarious, yet we are forced to admit that Florence passion for music is rather intoxicating. Yes, she may lack the talent but definitely not the heart for it, Florence is indeed a true lover of music. Her last few words are one that will echo in my heart forever. It is actually what really prompted me to write this Nugget.On learning the truth that she is indeed a terrible singer, she concludes chuckling… People may say I couldn’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.” After a while she dies peacefully.

How many of us are willing to pursue something so passionately that even if we are laughed at, or even thought of as weird, we would rather do it? Are we ready to laugh at those who laugh at us and say like she did, they may never approve of me but at least they will not say I never did it. Though Florence could never sing like a Nightingale and win applause for her voice, yet she became a prominent musical cult figure in New York City during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Cole PorterGian Carlo MenottiLily PonsSir Thomas Beecham, and other celebrities were fans. How did Florence win the hearts of so many in spite of her clear lack of singing talent? It was probably her love and courage to sing that made her win both their hearts and ours!

drawing-the-love-sign-smiley-emoticonNugget of Life: “Do what you love, and you will find the way to get it out to the world.”- Judy Collins 

Enjoy this video which pretty much sums up this nugget: https://youtu.be/3yFiqdCjNMk

 

Have a great week,

Cheers,

Sparky Laurie

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2018 in LIFE LESSONS, Uncategorized

 

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Nugget # 108 Life lessons from Santa Paws 2!

Santa_paws_2_santa_pups

Hi friends,

Hope you’re enjoying the Christmas Season. This week’s nugget came to me as I was watching the Disney Holiday Musical Santa Paws 2. Click here for trailer.

Santa Paws 2 is  a wonderful reminder to us about the real spirit of Christmas. The story is about how Mrs. Claus(wife of Santa Claus) travels to the town of Pineville with the playful Santa Pups who start granting wishes to the children. Things go awfully wrong when a boy named Carter angrily wishes there was never any Christmas. As his wish comes true, we see how his gloom (which is aptly represented by some flying black dust) actually touches his friend first and then his father later and how they suddenly lose their Christmas joy. Carter’s sister (a true believer in the magic of Christmas) asks Mrs Claus what had happened to her brother. Mrs. Claus explains to Sarah that he had caught a Christmas Cold. The delightful conversation follows…

xmas cold song1

Sarah: “A Christmas Cold? How do we make it better?”
Mrs. Claus : “It’s like any other cold, you just help them through it.”
Sarah : “By feeding them soup? And cocoa?”
Mrs. Claus: “That’s partly it ….but a Christmas cold is special, it takes a special kind of treatment to make it better.”
Sarah: “Like what?”
Mrs. Claus: “Umm … like instead of Soup, give him a Hug, instead of medicine, give him lots of love.
Instead of a tissue, give him Christmas cheer. Yes, this is a sickness that is centuries old!
It’s the feeling that makes us lose faith & hope… dear, something we call… A Christmas Cold!”
Mrs. Claus: “Christmas is magic with Glorious Music…”
Sarah: “Heartwarming stories beautifully told…”
Mrs. Claus: “But sometimes we feel kind of sad & lonely… That’s when you’ve caught it, A Christmas Cold!”
Together : “Christmas cold, Oh… how we dread them! Christmas Cold, there’s no joy in town. We won’t let it get us down, No, we won’t let Christmas Cold get us down…”
Click here to hear the whole Christmas Cold Song.

Later we see how the Christmas Cold infects the whole town and how everyone becomes grouchy. Sarah asks Mrs. Claus why she hadn’t caught the cold yet and she replies that Sarah was the strongest believer in Christmas there ever was and that was the reason she was immune to the Christmas Cold which had infected all of Pineville. Sarah then cures her town by singing hope through the radio station.

These are the 2 life lessons that come to my mind:images (1)

1)We are more influential than we realize-  Carter’s wish froze the town and Sarah’s song melted it. Sometimes people may unknowingly steal our joy by thoughtless words or actions and the other way round too. We seldom realize how contagious our attitudes are .So it is very important for us to be mindful of how we affect others. Especially at times when we are feeling low, the best thing we could do (instead of dragging our friend down just because we are blue) is to be a good listener. Who knows ?… if we are open & receptive, some of their positivity would actually rub the gloom off of us!

d93f80a57ded088e6f15c2e43d0954ba--ann-voskamp-liturgical-seasons2) The real meaning of Christmas – In the movie, Sarah was immune to the Christmas Cold only because of her unshakable belief in the magic of Christmas. The Christmas Season is not just a time to decorate our houses with trees, shining lights, stars and bells or a time to bake cakes and ginger bread cookies. It’s not just a festival to drink to and make merry. Or a time only for shopping for toys, gifts and other goodies. But Xmas is the time to become real beacons of light shining brightly where we have been placed and thus lighting up the ever increasing darkness around. A time to replace doom and gloom with purpose and laughter. And this will be possible only when we truly believe with all of our heart that Jesus is the real reason for the Season. 

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Nugget of Life : “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but also reflecting.”- Winston Churchill

Click here to hear sweet Sarah sing ‘O Holy Night’. This song, I dedicate to you dear friend this Christmas! May the miracle of Christmas fill your heart & home with joy!

Merry Xmas & Happy New Year!

Lots of love & Christmas cheer,

Sparky Laurie

 

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Nugget # 48 Life is like Machinery!

Hi friends,

This week’s nugget is inspired by the spectacular 3D adventure drama film HUGO that won 5 Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards. In addition to being an enchanting allure captivating  both children and adults alike, it is also a great tribute to the magic of early cinema. The story is set in 1930’s Paris and revolves around a boy named Hugo who lives in the walls of a train station fixing clocks and gadgets. He is on a quest to fix an automaton in the hope of receiving a message from it; since it was the last thing his father left him before dying. Quite incidentally he meets the lovely Isabelle who becomes his friend and joins him in this breathtaking adventure of solving the intriguing mystery behind the strange drawing the automaton makes for him.

My favorite part was when Hugo takes Isabelle to the back of the giant train station clock and there as they watch the beauty of Paris at night, he makes the following amazing statement: Hugo Cabret: “Right after my father died, I would come up here a lot. I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason too.”

That set me thinking. How very true! Aren’t we all like the different parts of this amazing machinery called life? “I am here for a reason and so are you!” Here are 3 life lessons I could draw out from this:

1) We are all made on purpose for a purpose: On our own, we may seem small and maybe even insignificant. We may look at the whole machinery and wonder “Will it really  matter if I don’t do my part? What difference does it make as long as all the other parts are there?” But the truth is that just like every cog in the machine (even a tiny screw) needs to be in its proper place doing its particular function for the machinery to work, all of us (no matter how trivial/unimportant we may consider our roles in life to be) are specifically designed & equipped for a unique purpose and placed exactly where we need to be.

2) Each of us has a specific role to play: If we try to do another’s role , the machine won’t work. If we refuse to do our role, all the other parts also suffer. Hence we need to recognize our purpose and realize its significance for without us the total purpose can never be fully achieved.

3)Others have their specific roles to play: We need to realize that just as we have our roles to play, others also have their specific roles to play. In order to get the machinery working smoothly, first of all we need to ensure that we are in place in working condition and then we need to cooperate with others as they fulfill their designated purposes.

Nugget of Life : “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” – Edward Everett Hale

Have a delightful week!

Cheers,

Sparky Laurie

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in NUGGETS OF LIFE, Uncategorized

 

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