What Would Mr. Rogers Do? The True Story of Sam

Sam was mad.  Really mad.  I watched him on the playground.  He was playing a game that mapped out all the pathways and running areas.  One place, alongside the dinosaur den was a ‘danger zone’, so anyone who ran across was sternly warned that it was not safe, and to find a different place.  No one payed heed to Sam, so things escalated.  It was not good.

A little backstory…

Sam isn’t in my class, but I see him on the playground.  He’s big, he loves physical play in a fun way.  He’s verbal, and likes to take charge with ideas.  He doesn’t always understand when a classmate is upset if he accidentally hurts them.  He is impulsive, yet he has a big and kind heart.  I have watched Sam run and chase, play rough and tumble play.  I have watched Sam dig a deep hole in the sand, collect sticks, find rocks, search for treasure- all with focus.  The outdoors is his element.

I have seen many tiffs with classmates.  The give-and-take of play does not come easy for Sam.  He has great ideas, yet if others don’t want to play the way he wants to, it becomes a problem.

Back to today…

When my kids came to me to complain about Sam, I headed over for a talk, which became less of a talk.

Sam:  They’re running across the danger zone.  I keep telling them it’s not safe, but they don’t listen.

Me:  They want to run this way.  It’s okay.

Sam:  It’s not okay.  They don’t listen.

Me:  That’s hard, but they’re your friends.

Sam:  No.  I hate them.  I have no friends.  Nobody is my friend.

Me:  Well, I’m your friend.

Sam:  Yeah, but nobody in my class is my friend.  I hate them.

This is when I listened, really listened.  Sam needed to talk.  Kids can’t keep ‘stuff’ bottled up inside.  Did you know the best way to listen to or talk with an angry child is side-by-side?  It’s soothing.  Face-to-face is too confronting.

Sam ranted, and I listened.  I never stopped to say “I understand”, or “I know how you feel” because I don’t know.

Me:  Do you have a pet?  They can be great friends.

Sam:  No, and I really want one.  I want an African penguin.

He told me all about the penguin with excitement.  He was the teacher and I was the student.  He talked and I listened.  The more Sam talked, the more I listened.

Sometimes we don’t need to fix everything or solve all the problems.  Sometimes just being there and listening is most important.  Mr. Rogers was the best listener.  That’s exactly what he would do.  He said:

More and more I’ve come to understand that listening is one of the most important things we can do for one another.  Whether the other be an adult or a child, our engagement in listening to who that person is can often be our greatest gift.  Whether that person is speaking or playing or dancing, building or singing or painting, if we care, we can listen.  ~ Fred Rogers~

I will always try to be a Mr. Rogers.


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 Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, self esteem and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

87 Responses to What Would Mr. Rogers Do? The True Story of Sam

  1. srbottch says:

    Excellent points, Jennie. Even as adults, as Mr Rogers noted, it’s important to be a listener and be listened to. One of the most important traits a salesperson needs to have is to be a good listener. Have a great day, Jennie 😋

  2. Norah says:

    That’s so true, Jennie. Everyone wants to be heard.

  3. Fraggle says:

    Great advice Jennie re sitting side on. Must try that with my son- even though he’s 35!

  4. Mr. Roger’s was so great . Back years ago for all of the children were so happy with him. Anita

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, he was. Thank goodness he is still a part of our lives through his wonderful words. I show the children at school some videos from his show.

  5. We definitely need more Mister Rogers and, you’re so right, he had so many great lessons on the best way to listen. Love your suggestions on talking sideways instead of face to face. Works with adults too! 😆😆😆

    • Jennie says:

      We definitely need more Mister Rogers. He really was the best. Did you see his documentary (not the movie)? Yes, side by side. And you’re right, it does work with adults, too!

  6. You are too wise for words.

  7. beth says:

    you are absolutely spot on and so right about this.

  8. Darlene says:

    Mr. Rogers was a very wise man, as you are a very wise woman! I’m sure Sam will always remember that you listened to him. For a time I worked with youth at risk (teenagers and young adults) and found that listening was an important part of my job.

    • Jennie says:

      He was wise and such a great teacher. I watched the show with our youngest while the oldest was taking music lessons. It was very special. Thank goodness I ‘carried him’ into my classroom. I’d forgotten that you worked with troubled teens and adults. You must have made a difference by listening, Darlene.

  9. We do need more Mr. Rogers way of thinking and acting. I hope Sam felt better after you listened and he talked.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, we do need much more of Mr. Rogers. Sam felt better, he needs more teachers and adults to listen. I only see him on the playground. Still, every little bit helps.

  10. beetleypete says:

    We never had Mr Rogers in England, but now we have Jennie Fitzkee online instead. You are the modern version of him, no doubt.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  11. We need Mr. Rogers’ listening skills in our world more than ever these days, Jennie!

  12. willedare says:

    Thank you for yet another wise and respectful blog post, Jennie. I think the fact that so many of us have blogs is another reminder that most human beings (and other beings, too) want to be listened to, want to be seen, want to be valued…

    • Jennie says:

      You make a very good point, Will. Yes, we all want to be listened to, seen and valued,
      children most of all. If I (and teachers) can do this with children, perhaps they will have some chutzpah. Feeling confident comes from being listened to.

  13. Don Ostertag says:

    I would hope that Sam’s parents realizes this also, Jennie.

  14. Ritu says:

    The best advice ❤

  15. quiall says:

    We should all try to have a little of him in us.

  16. What a poignant example of the importance of holding presence for someone else in need. I hope Sam finds his friends and also a pet. Maybe not a penguin…but someone to share his love.

  17. Ally Bean says:

    Great story. I took a Listening class in grad school and it made me aware of the need to develop that skill. It’s helpful in all sorts of situations.

  18. A great lesson, Jennie. Thank you.

  19. I feel for Sam… I am so pleased he had you to listen to him Jennie… That Listening Ear is the best Healing you can imagine… Thank you for sharing this with us… Much love dearest Jennie… You dear Jennie are a true Healer, of hearts.. ❤

  20. CarolCooks2 says:

    No Mr Rogers for us, Jennie but you have listened and are passing the listening ..your class are so lucky that you listen and they, in turn, will learn to listen…win-win I say x

  21. I’m sure you’ve seen many Sams through the years. In time some change or the better while others don’t. Letting the hurt and angry talk is a great lesson for all of us. Well done, Jennie. Your students are lucky to have you.

    • Jennie says:

      I have, Frank. I used to be the teacher who would ‘helpfully’ answer with something like, “Of course you have friends. I know how you feel.” It’s harder to just listen. Many thanks!!

  22. petespringerauthor says:

    Kids learn when we model appropriate behavior. Your listening to Sam is teaching him another way to handle situations. Is it likely to change his behavior overnight? Not likely, but the cumulative effect of good role models can’t be understated.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, the cumulative effect, all the little things, make the difference over time. It is harder to listen and not do the ‘teacher thing’, jumping in to fix it with words. Best to you, Pete.

  23. Ellen says:

    You definitely followed the wisdom gifted to us by Mr. Rogers! You may never know if this positive response to young Sam will remain with him…but surely your listening helped in the moment. I share these words that are worth remembering : “The difference between hearing and listening is paying attention. Listening can be an antidote to judgement. Listening matters.” – Ruth Messinger. Thank-YOU!

  24. Hi Jennie. I loved Mr. Rogers as a child and I admire your approach to being there for that angry young boy. I am not a teacher of young children, but I enjoyed reading this post.

    However, the reason I stopped by your blog was to let you know that you won a free digital copy of “Delilah” in the giveaway for the WordCrafter “Delilah” Book Blog Tour! I announced the winners on my blog, Writing to be Read, but your comment was on Roberta Writes, so I don’t think you saw it. If you will contact me at kayebooth@yahoo.com, so I have your email, I will send you a link to get your free copy.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and of course Mr. Rogers. And, I’m happy I won the digital copy of Delilah. Hooray, and thank you! I will contact you right away.

  25. May we all be a “Mr. Rogers” in the best sense of the phrase. And Sam was so lucky to have you there, to listen. To love. “Love our neighbors (friends/enemies/family/children/adults) as ourselves.” And always listen. Thanks for this beautiful lesson.

  26. Hi Jennie, an interesting story. It is good to listen to adults as well as children. Did it work? Did Sam unwind?

  27. Dan Antion says:

    There are many Sams around us. They can be any age, and I think your advice would still work.

  28. dgkaye says:

    You have the gift Jennie. Compassion and listening are important components. Mr Rogers would be proud. ❤

  29. Pingback: What Would Mr. Rogers Do? The True Story of Sam – menthor of mind

  30. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you for this wonderful post!

  31. frenchc1955 says:

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

  32. jilldennison says:

    Every teacher, every parent, every adult who has any contact with children should learn from you, dear Jennie!!! You always know just the right thing to say or do … the world is lucky to have you, but we need a few thousand more like you!!!

  33. Carla says:

    Wonderful post, Jennie. I love when you share your experiences and let us learn from you. I didn’t know about the side by side thing and I should have. I always thought looking at the speaker let them know we were listening. We are never too old to learn things.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Carla. Sharing my experiences is what I love to do. Yes, the side by side way of talking with children works. I learned that from one of the best presenters years ago. She’s the one who works with the tough kids. Like you, I love learning these new things. Age is no barrier.

  34. Pingback: What Would Mr. Rogers Do? The True Story of Sam

  35. Monica Ganz, Children’s Book Writer says:

    This was a special post. I agree, children need to be heard and to have their feelings acknowledged.

    • Jennie says:

      Exactly! When we listen to children, we help them sort things out and find the right path. They want to know someone cares. Thank you, Monica.

      • Monica Ganz, Children’s Book Writer says:

        By the way, I think I read in one of your posts you are in Michigan. I’m in Chicago. Nice to know you’re my neighbor. I saw you got the Amanda books in your library. I think they are wonderful books too. I’m going to ask “our” library about getting them in as well. 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Hi Monica, I am in Massachusetts. I’m sorry we are not neighbors. Yes, the Amanda books are wonderful. I’m so glad they’re in our library.

      • Monica Ganz, Children’s Book Writer says:

        A good state!

      • Monica Ganz, Children’s Book Writer says:

        This will make you smile. I went to boarding school (Miss Porter’s School) in CT, a girl’s boarding school. We would have dances with Deerfield Academy, boys boarding school. We had to be SO FAST to sign up for the bus, only so many girls could go. It was a long drive to MA, but we were full of excitement to go to a dance. We would also have day trips to Boston, which was wonderful. Such history there. Childhood memories. 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, this made me smile! I know both schools, and I can absolutely picture what this was like. School dances were the best. My heartthrob BF from 8th grade went to Deerfield. West Virginia to Massachusetts . Yes, wow! I would have loved the experience of visiting New England back then.

      • Monica Ganz, Children’s Book Writer says:

        LOL — L.L.Bean clothing was BIG.

      • Jennie says:

        Still is. 🙂

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