Growing up, I was part of the "Mr. Rogers Generation" who remember fondly his cardigans, footwear changes, and the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe." I admired him then, and still do, but it wasn't on a personal level that Mr. White's column resonated with me. Instead, I realized just how much the spirit of Mr. Rogers encompasses so much of what we as parents, educators, and community members who support public education strive for in our schools today.
What the article did inspire me to do, however, was to dig deeper and rediscover who exactly Mr. Rogers was outside of his children's television persona. I found a few words of his that really cemented the connection between Fred Rogers' message all those years ago and what we are doing locally here in East Penn.
Fred Rogers on civic duty
We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say "It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem." Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes. [Source]
Fred Rogers on the importance of play:
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. [Source]
Fred Rogers on seeing someone for who they are:
If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person. [Source]
Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel. A facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal. [Source]
Fred Rogers on learning from children:
Children are to be respected and I respect them deeply. They've taught me an awful lot. [Source]
Mr. White's column captured Fred Rogers, the man, perfectly:
[...] Kids can spot a phony a mile away, and there was nothing phony about Mister Rogers. He cared deeply about what he was doing, and he loved children.
When I asked Bill Barker what struck him most about Fred Rogers, he used the same words I had just written myself. "There was nothing phony about Fred, " he said. "He was the most authentic human being I think I've ever met."
In just a few words, Bill Barker captured the essence of who Fred Rogers was, and what we, as a school community must have within us as well. Our children deserve nothing less. Authenticity, compassion, and a deep sense of caring have been part of every decision I've made on my short time on the board.
Words to live by, and something to think about during this summer break. Soon, a new school year will be upon us, and with it, an opportunity to bring these words back to life again in the classrooms and communities of East Penn.