The Wisdom of Mister Rogers – Part 1

I had the good fortune to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on television with my children in the 80’s.  I also had the good fortune to hear Fred Rogers speak at a national teacher’s conference in the 90’s.  He was a kind and gentle man, and he commanded the love and respect of children and parents – because he understood children.  He also understood the world, and more importantly, children’s place in the world.

Most recently I watched (twice) the new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?  I thought I knew… well, there is so much.  I didn’t know.

I highly recommend watching this film.  Remember, it is a documentary, not a movie.  I will share one story that blew my socks off:

Racial tension was at a high.  In the south, a film clip showed black people swimming in a pool, and white people walking along the outside edge of the pool pouring straight chlorine bleach into the pool.  So how did Mister Rogers handle that on his show?  He was sitting, with his feet in a wading pool.  Along comes Officer Clemmons, a popular (and black) character on the show.

“Hi Officer Clemmons.  How are you?  It’s a hot day.  Would you like to sit and cool off?”

They sit side-by-side exchanging greetings, and Officer Clemmons takes off his shoes and socks, and joins Mister Rogers in the wading pool.  Their feet are swimming together, black and white.  It’s that subtle.  It’s that powerful.

What a perfect way to combat racial prejudice.  Better yet, what a brilliant way to bring the world to children. Humanity and kindness at it’s best, in an everyday situation.

That’s what Mister Rogers did.

He saw the inside of everyone, not the outside.

Fred Rogers was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award bestowed by the President of the United States. He received the coveted Peabody Award.  The Smithsonian Institution displays his trademark sweater.

Mister Rogers list of accomplishments is a long list, yet to him (and me) his most important  accomplishments aren’t on those lists.  They’re what he did everyday with children.  He has a lot to say about that.

Stayed tuned for Part 2, and the words of Mister Rogers himself.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Kindness, Learning About the World, Love, self esteem, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

88 Responses to The Wisdom of Mister Rogers – Part 1

  1. ksbeth says:

    i love mr. rogers, and his way with children and the world

  2. Ritu says:

    What a wonderful way to spread compassion ❤️

  3. beetleypete says:

    We never had Mr Rogers. Looks like we missed out. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Darlene says:

    Mr. Rogers was an amazing person. The world needs more folks like him, especially the children.

  5. He was on twice a day when my children were little and I used to watch it with my two every day.
    He had the best field trips! I wish he was in reruns for the little ones today.
    Daniel Tiger isn’t quite the same at all.

    • Jennie says:

      I remember his field trip to the Crayola factory. Yes, he did so much on his show. Doesn’t PBS carry his reruns?? I highly recommend the documentary, Deborah.

      • If there are reruns I haven’t seen them. Perhaps like Sesame Street to get the really good episodes you have to subscribe to a channel? We had HBO for years which carried the good episodes of Sesame St. but we’ve dropped HBO getting closer to cutting the T.V. cord.

        For #1 Grandson I found Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, but like I said it’s just not the same.

        I’ll look for the documentary.

      • Jennie says:

        The show is on PBS Kids. Thank goodness it’s still running! And yes, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is just not the same.

  6. Fred Rogers will always be one of my heroes. I cried more times during that documentary than I care to admit.

  7. Dan Antion says:

    For the longest time, WQED in Pittsburgh was one of the (only) 4 TV stations we had to choose from. Mr. Rogers worked for older kids and adults, too!

  8. mimionlife says:

    I have heard wonderful things about this film. Our Pastor mentioned watching the film and how much he learned about Fred Rogers. I want to see this one. 🙂

  9. I missed out on Mr. Rogers as I didn’t watch when I was in America in the mid-80s and he was not on UK television, but sounds like it would be a good idea to re-run the series every generation… xxx

  10. He was an odd duck, but he sure had a heart of gold and tried hard to teach others to be a good person.

  11. About not re-running the shows: I thought I read somewhere after he died that either he stipulated to not run them in ‘perpetuity’ or his heirs decided on that…but it was an actual decision – not oversight – to not rerun his shows…I’m surprised it wasn’t covered in the documentary. (which I’ll have to catch BTW!)
    And just as a little aside, I don’t think it’s necessarily PBS’ policy to not rerun shows because just look at how long Bob Ross has been rerun (and is still on in this area’s PBS station) long after his death…

  12. Loved Fred Rogers when my kids were little. He was magnificent.

  13. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, Thank you for another wonderful post!

  14. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another wonderful post from Jennie, the extraordinary teacher!

  15. Growing up, I had no idea how amazing Mr. Rogers was. I just thought he had a nice show, but only now am I beginning to realize just how significant his contributions to American society were.

  16. Getting this post tonight is such a coincidence! I was talking to a faculty colleague today about a new communication course that needs to be developed, and he cited Mr. Rogers’ method of communicating with children as a goal for the course because of its clarity and meticulous attention to connotation.

  17. I watched Mr. Rogers as a grownup and I am so glad I did. I loved his soft and ever-accepting ways. Yes, he sure did contribute a lot to society as a whole. thank you so much.

  18. I think you have mentioned Mr Rogers before on your blog, Jennie. I would not recognise the name otherwise as we didn’t have this show here. Sounds like a great documentary.

  19. I LOVED Mr. Rogers! I came across this show on PBS by accident while flipping thru channels. A wonderful program!! There were SO many things I didn’t know about this man. He was a wonderful human being and a Huge loss! Thanks for sharing! ❤

  20. Norah says:

    I’m not sure that I know of Mr Rogers. I don’t think his show came here. It’s a pity because we could all benefit from the lessons like the one you describe in this post.

  21. L. Marie says:

    I watched Mr. Rogers ages ago when I was a kid. I need to see this documentary.

  22. I still want to see this as soon as possible. Not sure where I’ll find it. Missed it along with so much else. I liked Mr Rogers and anything PBS put on. My first husband worked at a PBS station in Memphis for 8 years. All the children’s shows helped my son with language skills. We need more like him, but I think I’ve said this before. 😉

  23. Bernice says:

    Wow! That is a great story. Our love when people make political statements in non-confromtational manner.

  24. First time i heared about him, but as you told, his work is great. A subtile way fighting against racism. Let me look for the documentary too. Thank you for the information, Jennie! Best wishes, Michael

  25. Ellen says:

    My entire family and I went to the theater to see this documentary when it was released last year, there were many noticeable tears throughout the audience. Then as soon as the DVD was available I purchased one for each of us. Mister Rogers was a beloved family member to my children from the early 70’s through the 80’s. I used to call my Son a “Sesame Street Dropout”, but Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was never missed. Fred Rogers became his friend and early mentor. Thanks to the PBS DVD’s, he is just as loved by my 5 year old Grandson, Benjamin. I highly recommend Maxwell King’s book published in Sept. 2018 : “The Good Neighbor : The Life and Work of Fred Rogers”. I would usually add a quote, but will wait until you post Part 2. Thank-you!

    • Jennie says:

      That is just wonderful, Ellen! I love hearing your family story. Some of the children in my class watch his show on PBS. I’m glad you felt the same way about the documentary. I saw it in the theater, too, and I was deeply moved. I don’t know Maxwell King’s book, so thank you!! I will be looking forward to your quote.

  26. I always felt Fred Rogers was one of the most genuine human-beings. He is so very much missed in today’s world.

  27. Opher says:

    Never seen him – but that sounds great.

  28. abbiosbiston says:

    I’m South African and I live in the UK so I don’t know this show but it looks really lovely.

  29. Pingback: Smorgasbord Music Column – Romantic Ballads Part Two – Brigid P. Gallagher, Mary Smith, Jennie Fitzkee, Darlene Foster and William Price King. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  30. I agree with your assessnent. Thank you for this very respectful tribute.

  31. Sarah says:

    I’ve never hear of Mr Rogers but from what you’ve shared here with us, he was one damn fine man if I might say so! 😊

  32. dweezer19 says:

    Oh how I love Fred (meow, meow) Rogers. My oldest would watch, mesmerized, at the age of two, and soak in the sound of his voice. My husband loved watching his show for the segment on how things are made. Such a beautiful soul.

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