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The Legacy of Fred Rogers within the Skilled Improvement of Early Childhood Educators


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Mar 22, 2024
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The next is a written model of the presentation made at The Work of Fred Rogers: A Convention on His Context and His Legacy, held June 16-17, 2023 at The Fred Rogers Institute.

By means of fast introduction, my title is Amanda Morgan, and I write, communicate, podcast, and supply skilled improvement for early childhood educators from my website and impartial small enterprise, Not Simply Cute. Primarily, I work to help intentional whole-child improvement and to assist all members of studying communities – the mother and father, academics, directors, and decision-makers – to know that the work we do in early childhood, educating by play and communication and relationships, isn’t just “cute,” but it surely’s really very highly effective, extraordinarily essential, and in too many environments, it’s being pushed out.

However earlier than I began doing all of that, I used to be, after all, a baby. And as a baby, I spent a beneficiant period of time watching PBS, which suggests I spent numerous time visiting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. A lot so, that I’m a bit embarrassed to confess how previous I used to be once I realized that the again of a penny was, in reality, NOT Mister Rogers’ trolley.


Realizing the influence Fred Rogers and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has had on me, not solely as a baby, however as an early childhood skilled, I puzzled how that in contrast with the experiences of different professionals within the early childhood discipline. Maybe a few of our earliest skilled improvement coaching really occurred once we have been in early childhood ourselves.

I requested a pattern of about 200 early childhood professionals concerning the influence Fred Rogers’ legacy has had on them as professionals. One of many first questions I requested, was whether or not or not they watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. About 72% mentioned they watched this system. That’s a excessive quantity, however what was extra fascinating, was that a good greater quantity, about 81%, mentioned they felt Fred Rogers’ legacy influenced them as professionals. So, we are able to already see that his influence extends past the scope of those that watched his program.

When those that had watched have been requested concerning the excellent or overarching reminiscences of that have, there have been the anticipated solutions — feedback about puppets and songs and reminiscences of affection, kindness, and acceptance. What actually stood out, nonetheless, was that as they shared these reminiscences, the language was typically very private. They didn’t simply watch it, they skilled it. Widespread patterns within the phrases emerged resembling, “I felt cherished”, “I felt secure,” “He was speaking proper to me,” and even, “He may see into my soul.”

As youngsters, we watched Fred train us what to do with the mad that we feel and how crayons are made, however what I notice now was that he was additionally modeling finest practices primarily based on highly effective, deep, and easy theories. Nothing made it onto his program with out first going by a filter of intentional baby improvement primarily based on his private examine of human improvement, in addition to his work together with his mentor, Dr. Margaret McFarland. Primarily based on the various influences of his time, he had shaped his personal patchwork philosophy and observe, which, by the way, nonetheless holds up properly in opposition to at the moment’s ongoing analysis.

Realizing that for a lot of early childhood professionals, their first expertise with foundational theories and practices may very well have been watching Fred Rogers mannequin them, I requested my pattern how acquainted they have been with numerous theorists and researchers.

Utilizing a Likert scale, I requested them to charge how acquainted they have been with outstanding figures in developmental principle, analysis, and observe. The chances within the chart mirror those who rated their familiarity with these folks as a 5 – the best on the size. The work of Fred Rogers aligns with numerous elements of the work of every of those folks. Nevertheless, whereas few contributors indicated a excessive stage of familiarity with these figures, over 60% of them rated their familiarity with Fred Rogers’ influence as excessive.

DetermineRated Familiarity as 5
Maria Montessori40.8%
Jean Piaget36.7%
Erik Erikson27.5%
T. Berry Brazelton22.9%
Lev Vygotsky20.4%
Friedrich Froebel9.1%
Alison Gopnik4.3%
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek3.3%
Margaret McFarland2.8%
Fred Rogers64.8%

That distinction grew to become much more pronounced when requested if these educators visually acknowledged a few of those self same folks. (How would you do?)


Virtually 100% of contributors acknowledged Fred Rogers. About half may determine Maria Montessori. Round a 3rd tried to determine Jean Piaget, although a number of misidentified him as Freud, Erikson, or Vygotsky. And the toughest one? Trendy-day developmental psychologist, Dr. Alison Gopnik – solely 30 folks even tried to determine her and a couple of third of these have been unsuitable.

Whereas this discovering isn’t shocking, it’s important.

We noticed Mister Rogers; we didn’t simply examine him. We watched as he modeled his work. Whereas there’s nice worth within the work and the phrases of every of those giants, there’s a explicit efficiency in having the private expertise of watching Fred Rogers put these theories into motion. That non-public expertise turns into an indelible a part of our personal private observe – a reference level. In a method, many people have been mentored by Fred with out even realizing it.

To additional perceive this influence, I requested the 81% who mentioned they have been influenced as professionals by Fred Rogers’ legacy, to explain that affect in an open-ended format. As I learn over these responses, I started to note themes rising, so I coded the solutions in response to these themes. Some descriptions included multiple theme, which meant a single response might be included in a number of classes. These 5 primary themes have been Love, Acceptance, Being Youngster-Centered, Quietude, and Valuing Play and Surprise.


I’d prefer to share a bit of about every of these themes, how they emerged within the responses and the way, for a lot of professionals, the familiarity of Fred Rogers’ phrases and work create a bridge to developmental principle in addition to present analysis. Early childhood professionals could not really feel acquainted with the names and theories of present researchers and foundational theorists, however by understanding Fred, they really know extra about these corresponding rules than they notice.


It’s not shocking that love was an overriding theme in lots of responses. Phrases like “care,” “compassion,” “kindness,” “relationships,” and “connection” have been used often.

One respondent mentioned: “…He made a degree of seeing and connecting with folks. In my most treasured moments as an educator that’s what I’ve finished too. It is a good reminder for me to have much less “robotic moments” of attempting to examine issues off my checklist – and extra connection as an alternative.”

This connects with a rising physique of present analysis shared by Harvard’s Jack Shonkoff and others, displaying that love and relationships fairly actually change the mind and its potential to study successfully. Once I share a few of this analysis in my trainings, contributors discover that analysis fascinating and essential, however I typically wrap it up by saying, “and in the event you don’t need to hearken to psychologists and neuroscientists, you’ll be able to all the time hearken to Mister Rogers, who taught us that, ‘A love of studying has so much to do with studying that we’re cherished.’(source)

There’s a special feeling that comes over the room. A glance of recognition. Of not simply understanding the reality of these phrases as a result of they sound good and make sense, however as a result of they’ve personally seen and felt that fact themselves.



The unique Mr. McFeely, David Newell, stopped by the convention for a “Speedy Supply.”


Acceptance was one other prime theme, with phrases and phrases like “inclusive,” “with out judging,” “alright to make errors,” and “simply the best way you’re.” I believe Fred would doubtless argue that the kind of acceptance respondents described with these phrases is only a subset of affection, as he defined, “To like somebody is to try to just accept that individual precisely the best way she or he is, proper right here and now.” (source)


Along with his humanist and spiritual influences, his views on acceptance could have come from his understanding of Erikson’s theories of identification and sense of self. In addition they completely embody Bronfenbrenner’s ecological principle. Afterall, one may say Fred was “irrationally loopy” about each baby in his Neighborhood, loving what others could not see and even need to see.


Nevertheless it’s typically Fred’s phrases that join the educators on this pattern to the rules from these theorists, as one respondent shared, “I strongly worth every baby ‘simply the best way they’re’ and I work onerous to make them really feel seen and essential.”


Being child-centered emerged as properly, with references to Fred’s amazing ability to connect with children on their level, to talk in a method that wasn’t patronizing but in addition revered their distinctive perspective. He was a fierce advocate for kids and for childhood in each house he entered.

This child-centered perspective connects to many theorists and practitioners – Maria Montessori is only one highly effective instance, as she reminded us to “comply with the kid.”

Nevertheless it’s Fred that these educators point out as influencing them to think about the kids first. (source)


One participant’s remark may nearly be mistaken for one thing Fred would have mentioned himself, talking of his affect saying, “I believe it’s all the time essential to pay attention, actually hearken to youngsters. Too many occasions we predict what an grownup has to say is extra essential and we want to ensure youngsters know we care about what they need to say.”


Quietude was a theme that was simple to see however troublesome to call. Many responses included references to Fred’s calm, quiet, peaceable, and unhurried demeanor.

In an interview within the Nineteen Nineties, Fred mentioned, “I’m very involved that our society is far more interested by info than marvel – in noise, moderately than silence.” I typically marvel what he would consider our society’s tempo at the moment.


As responses mirrored on his affect on their very own observe, I used to be struck by the popularity that there was really energy in Fred’s sort and mild strategy (He was “sort and mild, however sturdy.”). One educator mirrored on Fred’s direct affect on her observe, saying, “Once I consider him, I’m reminded to decelerate, to be light, to actually pay attention and take note of every particular person baby regardless of how busy I’m. I don’t all the time succeed, however considering of him helps.”

Fred’s tempo is definitely referenced within the extra present work of Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who has contrasted Fred’s deliberate, slower tempo with the detrimental impacts of the extra frenetic pacing of a lot of at the moment’s packages. The significance of a powerful pause can also be present in rising work on language development, cognition, and coregulation. The power to make use of silence successfully really is a quiet energy.


Final, however not least, the theme of valuing play and marvel emerged. (Examples included “creativeness,” “discover the marvel of issues,” “playful,” and “made studying really feel magical.”)

Definitely, this theme might be discovered in lots of outstanding theories of Fred’s day, (Piaget, Montessori, and Steiner all asserted youngsters require lengthy uninterrupted intervals of play and exploration, for instance) and it was actually a frequent matter of conversation with his mentor, Dr. McFarland.

The significance of play has additionally been supported by extra present analysis. One in all my favourite examples is the work of Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff who’ve shared {that a} growing body of research exhibits that the very best studying occurs in a playful studying setting, the place youngsters are actively engaged in significant, social, iterative, and joyful experiences.


Their work would come as no shock to Fred, whose quote about play acquired extra constructive responses from contributors than any of the opposite Fred quotes on the survey. Many respondents even talked about this quote straight as they mentioned what that they had realized from Fred:

“Play is the very best trainer.”

“In a nutshell: play is the work of kids.”

“That play is figure. Youngsters study by their play and in a playful, secure setting.”

We will see how part of Fred’s legacy has been woven into how these early childhood professionals see their work and interact of their observe. However what I hadn’t anticipated is that simply as Fred’s work grew to become a mannequin and a mentor for a lot of younger neighbors turned early childhood professionals, these professionals are actually integrating that affect into their very own work as mentors, weaving that legacy into the lives and the work of those that could not personally be as acquainted with Fred’s work.


“The concept I start all of my Intro to EC lessons with is that it’s essential to have two information stones – respect and relationships. I really feel that it is a direct reflection of Fred Rogers’ philosophy.”

“I’ve realized through the years the worth of relationships and being in relationship with my workers and kids at my college is without doubt one of the most essential areas I can develop. We’re right here to be in relationship with each other.”

“My colleagues and I’d typically ask one another ‘what would Mr. Rogers do?’”


Fred would typically invite folks to consider those that had loved them into being. And for many people, he was a kind of individuals who cherished us into the professionals that we’re at the moment, even when it was years in the past in that sacred house between the tv display screen and our younger eyes.

As I consider Fred’s influence, I’m reminded that skilled improvement isn’t one thing we merely transmit in phrases and knowledge, however that we love folks into being. We mannequin and mentor and constructed relationships. This is where people move from seeing their work as a job to seeing it as a calling.

I requested a number of folks about how they have been cherished into the professionals they’re now, and the way they’re doing that for others at the moment. And as they and every of us take into consideration that for ourselves, we start to see a lot of those self same 5 parts mentioned above: love and acceptance of the place we are actually, encouragement and modeling to assist us to develop, pleasure and marvel within the course of.

I need to finish by sharing certainly one of my favourite responses to Fred’s particular query.

I requested Kelli Barker, an in depth buddy from grad college who now directs the Child Development Lab at Utah State University. Fascinated by the query, she first reminisced about mentors and friends who confirmed her equal elements of inspiration, problem, and acceptance. Then she mentioned one thing profound:

“Youngsters are those who actually cherished me into being….”

“….Each expertise that I’ve had with them deepens my love for what I do and my love for eager to cross that on to different folks – to really feel what I really feel.”

It jogged my memory a lot of Fred, who, when he was requested what he had realized from the kids, replied, “practically everything.”

It’s a reminder that in the end, that is what this work – his work, our work – is all about.

The kids.

Part of Fred Rogers’ legacy is that for many people, he modeled and mentored and cherished us into being the professionals we’re at the moment. All of us have a little bit of that purple sweater woven into who we’re, and he’s proven us find out how to give that present to others as properly.

As wonderful as it’s to be in Pittsburgh and Latrobe and see the statues and buildings and archives and artifacts right here, Fred Rogers’ legacy isn’t within the “stuff”. As Pericles is believed to have mentioned, a legacy isn’t what’s “engraved in stone monuments, however what’s woven into the lives of others.” Fred wove his legacy into each individual he got here involved with – in individual, or by the display screen, or by the phrases and work he left behind.

His legacy is woven into every of us who have interaction within the work of serving youngsters and households, and it continues as we weave the thread ahead into the lives of these we train.

And that’s the reason YOU are Fred Rogers’ legacy.



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