In our Educators’ Neighborhood community, anytime we show and discuss a clip of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood where Fred Rogers talks with a guest, the conversation overflows with description of all that is beautiful about the interaction. Typically, we discuss such interactions to reflect on our own educator practice: ways to be present with children/families, listen more intently, be vulnerable and honest, nurture others to feel comfortable and accepted as they are.
Here are some things educators notice and describe in episode moments when Fred visits with a guest:
Each of these descriptions is an element educators bring (and aspire to bring) to their practice with children, families, colleagues, and others. It’s assuring, inviting, and accessible to see how Fred Rogers grows a conversation and know that you can do that, too.
Yet, I sense that there is something more at play when educators talk about how Fred visits with guests. There is something beneath and beyond the surface of the words they speak.
There is a longing. An expansive, open-hearted longing for someone to say:
Would you like to sit for a visit?
I see you.
I like you.
Why did you become an educator?
Who taught you how to do all the things you do?
Did you always know how? Did it take a lot of practice?
What do you love about your work?
“Hmm… ah, ha… you don’t say… how beautiful…”
I love listening to you talk.
I’m so happy to know you.
Thank you for being you and sharing who you are with me.
Here’s an invitation to all who read this: Find an educator you know and invite them to sit for a visit. Maybe your child’s teacher, a local crossing-guard, a family therapist, librarian, museum educator, principal, friend, colleague, or neighbor. They’ll likely be surprised and may even ask “Why?”. No need to explain too much. Simply invite them to sit with you, ask them an open question, and listen. The conversation will likely feel like a gift for both of you.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your conversation, you might like to watch a clip or two of Fred Rogers visiting with a guest. You can find some on Fred Unboxed, an online collection of items from the Fred Rogers Center Archive. Here’s a link to some videos, including visits with Wynton Marsalis, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Andre Watts, STOMP (and others). And, during our last Community Sharing Event on Process, we watched a beautiful clip from episode #1652 of a visit between Fred Rogers and Ella Jenkins. If you’d like to see the clip (and our discussion), you can access the recording here.
Have fun with your conversations! May we enter 2022 overflowing with beauty grown from our listening visits with educators.
Melissa A. Butler is the Project Lead for Educators’ Neighborhood with the Fred Rogers Institute.