Netflix added A beautiful day in the neighborhood. The movie shook me to tears. The more I learnt about Fred Rogers, the more I admire him. He is the great example for any teacher. To keep the feelings somewhere safe, I decided to write about them down for personal reminder.
For someone who has not been familiar with Rogers, he is an American TV presenter, educator, and minister, etc. His 30 minute show Mister Rogers's Neighborhood ran for 31 seasons. To many American, he is considered the uncle of many children and who used to be children.
For the millions of adults who grew up watching him on public television, Fred Rogers represents the most important human values: respect, compassion, kindness, integrity, humility. On Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the show that he created 50 years ago and starred in, he was the epitome of simple, natural ease. (King. M, 2018)
1. Consistent simplicity
But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can do to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own--by treating our 'neighbor' at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.
Over 800 episodes, he entered the set with he same old way, change to his cardigan, and swapped to basic canvas shoes.
Just like that, his simplicity imposes immense impacts on generations. The sense of familiarity brings trust and security to young audience. Rogers's cardigans, Steve Jobs's black turtlenecks, or Mark Zuckerberg's grey shirt share similarity. Simple choice of clothes serve as blank canvas for audience to focus on what matters.
2. It is you, that I like
People love to be loved. Once you express the genuine interest in others, the love is mutual. We can see love is infectious thanks to Mister Rogers.
Love is at the root at everything, all learning, all relationships, love or the lack of it.
Just by saying "I like you", you can change lives. Try it.
3. Gentle triumphs
The legendary's soft spoken voice can carry strong statement. Fred Rogers prove that you don't need to make a scene with dominant voice and gesture to persuade. To persuade, Rogers trigger people emotions given trust-worthy relationship between his audience.
Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. (David Hume)
Do we need to yell to express our anger? Rogers' answer is N O
When you feel so mad
That you want to roar
Take a deep breath
And count to four
I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there's something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.
4. Accept your imperfection
Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes.
It's funny, but it's true.
It's the same, isn't it for me and..
Teachers are always asked to act like living saints. We need to wear, act, and talk in certain way that students should admire hence listen us. Fred Rogers, however, embraces imperfection.
Let's watch his famous tent debacle
“No, this is good. We’re ok. Children need to know that even when adults make plans, sometimes they don’t turn out the way we’d hoped.”
Yes, what kids and students need to know is that teachers are also in their practices. We as teachers are not perfect and we grow alongside with our students.
It’s a practice. He’s not a perfect person. He has a temper. He chooses how he responds to that anger... Well, yeah, he does things every day that help to ground him. Reads Scripture. Swims laps. Prays for people by name. Writes letters, hundreds of them. He’s been doing that since I met him. (Quote from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019))
5. The purpose of life
Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it.
To him, the purpose of life is to be helpful. Fame, fortune, and power can come along but they are not the purpose of life.
6. It might hurt
Mister Rogers does not avoid difficult subjects such as divorce, assassination, war, or death. He was the very first person to mention those topics.
You know, death is something many of us are uncomfortable speaking about. But to die is to be human. And anything human is mentionable. Anything mentionable is manageable. (Quote from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019))
As a lecturer, I was told to avoid topics like drug addiction and divorce in my teachings. My colleagues advise avoiding difficult topics to encourage children for right doings. After long consideration, I insisted talking about them all: the beauty and the ugly sides of life. No matter how consistently we try avoid, people still smoke, divorce, and die. Our tasks are addressing the problems rightfully not to avoiding them. This, I have to thank Rogers to strengthen my beliefs.
Just like when you get vaccinated, this might sting but it will be over. And you will become stronger.
King, M. (2018), Mister Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/06/mr-rogers-neighborhood-talking-to-kids/562352/