Sunday, June 10, 2012

Even After All These Years, Mr. Rogers is Still Teaching Me Things

A friend recently shared this video on Facebook. I have to confess, I've watched it at least half a dozen times in the past few days--it totally hooked my attention. If you watched Mr. Rogers at any point in your childhood, it's worth taking a couple minutes to view it...

This video was a fun reminder for me of a show I loved in my childhood, but seeing it also got me thinking about teaching Christianly again.

I watched Mr. Rogers regularly as a child. I loved that show. Somehow, Mr. Rogers came up around our supper table a few weeks ago (before I saw this remix even) and my kids were fascinated to hear how much I remembered about a show I last watched regularly 30 years ago. I loved the Trolley, the Neighborhood of Make-Believe (even Purple Panda, who apparently terrified other kids--who knew?), and how Mr. Rogers went to visit his friends who could tell him more about things he was curious about. There was a time in my life when I tossed the shoes I was putting on from one hand to the other, because that's how Mr. Rogers did it.

This was a good reminder for me about the brilliance of Fred Rogers. As a teacher and a parent, I'm looking back at Mr. Rogers' influence on my life, and thinking with appreciation about how his quirky, kind way left fingerprints on my childhood. Maybe I'm just reminiscing a little fondly, but here are just a few things that I remember from the show that I think I've carried with me throughout my life:
  • Mr. Rogers always had a song about everything. The show was full of music. Music has always had a key place in my life as well.
  • Mr. Rogers taught us the importance of taking care of your things and being responsible. He never said so, but he showed it, by feeding the fish, cleaning up the toys he was imagining with, etc.
  • Mr. Rogers was incredibly polite, always grateful for the help of others.
  • Mr. Rogers told us over an over again that it's okay to be who you are, that it's okay to have the feelings that you are having, and that it's okay to be proud of yourself when you have achieved big things.
  • Mr. Rogers was incredibly creative. (Obviously!) Anyone who could play a dozen or more puppets, all with developed characters of their own is a genius.
  • Mr. Rogers always had a positive outlook on life. Every day was a "beautiful day in the neighborhood."
As I think about this man from an educational standpoint, I admire his thoughtfulness about not just what he was teaching the kids who tuned in every day, but also his thoughtfulness for how he was teaching it. He was both enthusiastic and humble, both curious and polite, and always direct and honest. What a role model for teachers!

I once read that Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister before he began working on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (Wikipedia confirms this for me...), and I wonder how much his faith informed his approach on the show. From what I remember, there was never anything overtly religious in Mr. Rogers' TV personality, but he exhibited much of what I would hope my students might "catch" from me as their teacher about living a faith-infused life: honesty, morality, kindness, concern for others, openness to new ideas, wonder about the world God has made, and a desire to use the gifts God has given me to be a blessing to others, just to name a few. This makes me think a bit of what I wrote in my last post about teaching from a distinctively Christian perspective. Perhaps it's less about spouting Scripture at students...and more about beginning from the perspective at which I hope the students will end up, and being mindful of the way my faith informs my teaching practice, and how I interact with my students, and weaving a Biblically-informed view of the world into every lesson I teach.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Rogers. Thank you for having an influence on my childhood.

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