Lesson Learned watching the Christmas release movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” at our own Upshur Cinema 6 Theater provides a reminder that paying close attention to our children and grandchildren is a most vital step in their growth and development. The beloved television children’s show host Fred Rogers knew this well. Superstar Tom Hanks profiles the genius of Mister Rogers now on the big screen, 50 years after the show debuted on the small screen on the public television channel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Mister Rogers’ gentleness, kindness, and empathy are important ingredients in his success. The same ingredients are also just as important for our Upshur County Schools professional educators.
Certainly, our best teachers would agree with the emphasis Fred Rogers made on his capacity to pay attention to each child that he met. A day in the life of our excellent Upshur County teachers in their classrooms would reveal the same emotional bond that Fred Rogers brought to the public broadcasting children’s TV show. Both seek to connect one-on-one with each child.
Nine years ago, when I first began my service as an elected member of the Board of Education, our Upshur County Schools Superintendent was Scott Lampinen. I will forever be grateful to his patient explanation for this novice BOE Member of the teacher/student connection. He emphasized that the seasoned and dedicated teacher is the key for effective classroom performance.
After cogitating on Scott’s explanation, my own take for effectiveness resides with emotional bonding. In the movie the moments that took my breath away, bringing joy tears to my eyes, came through emotional bonding such as the subway scene. Fred Rogers wrote and sang from his soul. How powerful it was to see the seemingly estranged adolescents burst out in song when they see their “hero” in their subway car...
“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?”
Soon even the adults riding this previously impersonal public subway join in breaking out in song...
“A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?”
Our Upshur County Schools motto is EXPECT EXCELLENCE. Fred Rogers came to West Virginia University to give a commencement address years ago. This has been taken from archives and played again on social media. He spoke one-to-one with his WVU audience, who also grew up watching him. An aha moment comes when I recognize the same genius of our motto as the urging of excellence that Mister Rogers demonstrated over a 30-year career dedicating his life to reaching children through the medium of TV.
Another corollary lesson learned hobnobbing with teachers as a BOE member is that the education of children is a holistic endeavor. The late great music teacher extraordinaire Jim Knorr said, “We are all in this together!” In the movie, Mister Rogers makes the American Sign Language sign for a friend. He holds out both of his index fingers hooked in a C-shape. Holding one hand with a C facing up, he hooks the second C into the first. Then he reverses the position for the hands and does it again. It is like the fingers are best friends and are giving each other a hug.
We are all in this together in our beautiful neighborhood.