Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

"It's easy to convince people that children need to learn the alphabet and numbers. How do we help people to realize that what matters is how a person's inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life? What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of war or the description of a sunrise, and his numbers for the final count in Buchenwald or for the specifics of a new bridge" (Fred Rogers)

I’ve written about Fred McFeely Rogers before.   He had a pretty profound impact on my boys and me when they were little ones and I was a young dad.  I would come home from school and those little boys would come running up and hugging on me and loving on me.  And we would wrestle and take our walk through the neighborhood.  We would visit the lake, maybe fish for a little while, have an explore, chase each other around this big old oak tree and then head back to our condo.  On many days we would watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

He came along on ETV when I was too old to understand or appreciate him when I was a kid.  It was one of the baby shows.  He was too soft, wore old fashioned clothes and had lousy looking puppets for the fantasy part of the show.

We were very careful about what our little boys watched on TV.  Since we didn’t have cable, it was mostly ETV for kids.  Kratt’s creatures, Magic school Bus and Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood were the biggies. 

I saw Fred Rogers with new eyes when I was watching with my little ones.  He was real.  He talked right to you.  He went on real field trips and taught you about really cool things like how crayons were made or how the mail system worked.  He was encouraging and didn’t talk down to kids.  In one show he was feeding the fish in his 10-gallon fish tank and discovered a dead one.  He took a net and got it out.  He put it in some water with a tiny bit of extra salt to see if he could revive it.  But it was dead.  He spoke to little ones about the nature of life and how all creatures’ lives come to an end one day.   But for most of us it comes after a long and happy life. 

His fish died and he taught us how to celebrate life. 

There was nothing fancy about his show.  It was simple.  There were lengthy shots where you could tell that he wasn’t reading from a prompter.  He was just being Fred, a good man and a great teacher.  I quote from him in my newsletters to my students’ parents, at teacher workshops, and I use his words for language appreciation in my classroom. 

And he was an awesome songwriter.  He wrote a song or two every day.  And they were so cool.  They were deep and filled with great ideas for young minds.  And older minds too. 

A friend sent me a link to this YOUTUBE video.  It has been seen by millions.  Perhaps you have seen it already.  Give yourself a treat and watch it again. 

Do you ever imagine things?
Are they scary things?

Do you ever imagine things?
Things you’d like to have?

Do you ever see a cats eyes in the dark
and wonder what they were?

Do you ever pretend about things like that before?
(Do you ever pretend about things like that?)

Did you ever grow anything in your garden of your mind?
(In your garden of your mind?)

You can grow ideas in your garden of your mind?

(In your garden of your mind?)


Suzanne Odell said...

I watched this show growing up and although I don't remember too much about the particulars, I do remember the feeling of calmness when I watched the show. I felt so relaxed. Unlike the children's shows of today that have lots of noise, quick camera angle changes, short snips of things and then move on to the next segment....all based on studies that tell you the average attention span of a toddler to keep them interested....

Chris Hass said...

This was the only show we let the kids watch in its entirety when they were really little. We liked it for all the same reasons you share here. I once watched a documentary on Fred Rogers and, if possible, it made me like and respect him all the more. Some things I remember...

* His mother made those sweaters he wore in the show. He received one each Christmas.
* He woke up early each morning to swim laps. Being healthy was very important to him.
*He once gave a passionate speech to Congress that, in effect, saved the likes of PBS.
*I believe he made those cheesy puppets (the only part of the show I didn't like).

Here's the lyrics from my favorite of all his songs.

It's You I Like

It's you I like,
It's not the things you wear,
It's not the way you do your hair--
But it's you I like.
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you--
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys--
They're just beside you.

But it's you I like--
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you'll remember
Even when you're feeling blue
That it's you I like,
It's you yourself,
It's you, it's you I like.

Mrs. Randolph said...

Hey! It's Ms. V. (with a new name). I too loved watching Mr. Rodgers! While reading your post the theme song began to play in my mind. My particular favorite was when they went to the land of make-believe...It's so interesting to look back now and realize how much I was truly learning while watching that show. What a great way to put learning into perspective--it was just so natural!