Monday, January 30, 2012

A smile as Big as the Moon.

I just watched this last night, it is a movie about special needs children in 1988 (The kids range from Autistic, ADHD, Bi-Polar, to anger issues) that want to go to Space Camp after one of them brings a flier back from a planetarium. This is a movie that I was actually looking forward to, and I never look forward to a Hallmark movie.
Synopsis from Hallmark:
Mike Kersjes is the name of a real special-education teacher (and football coach), in Michigan. Mike doesn’t talk down to his “special” students. He respects them, and he believes they’re capable of achieving great things.
Mike hears about Space Camp, a competitive education program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Even though it’s designed for gifted science students, Mike decides participating in the summer program would do wonders for the self-esteem of his young students, one especially who wants to be an astronaut.
He faced incredible obstacles in trying to make his improbable dream become an inspiring reality. At first, school administrators refused to buy in. The folks who ran the camp were less than encouraging; they’d never had a group of special ed kids apply before. Trying to raise the money to pay for the trip was a nightmare. The kids even put on a carwash!
But it was after they were finally given the green light that the real challenge began. How to get kids with Down syndrome, Tourette’s, learning disabilities and emotional problems to leave their baggage behind, to coalesce into a team, and to tackle a bunch of extremely smart students from top schools around the country?
After 9 months of rigorous training preparation the class molded itself into a working team where they turned in a performance so startling, so surprising that it will leave you breathless.
Mike Kersjes had an impossible idea. Yet he made it happen. A truly triumphant story of the power of the human spirit.
I want you to keep in mind, this is a movie about kids wanting to go to Space Camp and remember, it is set in 1988 not 2012 so the Space Camp reference is relevant. I personally never saw the appeal of Space Camp but found it inspiring in this movie. The movie stars John Corbett as Mike Kersjes the special needs teacher who, throughout the movie is the only person really pushing for these kids to go to Space Camp (other than the kids themselves). Even his teachers' aid Robin has no faith that these special needs children could ever go to Space Camp.
I know this is supposed to be a movie about the kids, and I really wanted it to be (special needs people are a big part of my life); It would have been nice to see more than thirty minutes of the kids training and learning to become a team and actually performing as one at Space Camp, especially in a two hour movie but, in fact; they were only a driving sub plot to the Teacher wanting so bad for the kids to be thought of as "normal" people and the constant struggle he faces and the obstacles he needs to overcome to get them there. There are a total of three people who really think the kids are worth the shot, a Big Dan (a Burger shop owner), Mike (the teacher), and the President of the school board who just so happens to have a child with Downs in that class. It is a movie about tolerance and belief in abilities rather than what you see on the outside at first glance and this speech from the film sums that up:
"These are basically good kids who've been dealt a bad hand. They live their lives in the margins... Outside of the classroom, not much is asked of them, nor is much expected. Can they try your patience? Yes, they can. And do they sometimes break your heart? Yes, sir, they certainly do. But sometimes, there are remarkable moments, and I've seen this with my own eyes, when more is asked and more is expected of them, and they rise to the occasion, gratefully, gladly, just to remind you of the remarkable power of the human spirit."

Despite being sappy and there really being no conflict or real struggle to get the kI ids to Space Camp, I still enjoyed the movie and it made me smile, plus it is something the entire family can watch on TV, which is very rare these days.
I fully recommend this movie as one to watch with your kids and talk to them afterward about bullys (which I will discuss soon) and kids in their school with special needs,and how they get hurt and have dreams just like everyone else.
If you missed it, the movie will air again on the hallmark channel: 2/4 8 & 10 PM and 2/5 at 2PM.
I would like to end with a quote I like:

It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test. -Elbert Hubbard.


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