Educators you’ve loved – on Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2008

As a kid I could’ve listened to him all day. As an adult, I laughed at spoofs of him on Saturday Night Live. But as I look back, it occurs to me now that Mr. Fred Rogers was really innovative for his time. He saw TV as a medium to educate. In case you don’t know who Mr. Rogers is, he was an American educator and hosted a TV show for kids called Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I liked the way he taught. He was very calming.

I also found this excerpt on Wikipedia from Esquire Magazine’s coverage of the 1997 Emmys, written by Tom Junod and remember it well:

Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, ‘I’ll watch the time.” There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, seven seconds and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly, “May God be with you,” to all his vanquished children.

In honor of a great children’s educator and visionary, can you take 10 seconds here on Valentine’s Day to think of the people who have helped you become who you are?

icon_heart.gif10
icon_heart.gif9
icon_heart.gif8
icon_heart.gif7
icon_heart.gif6
icon_heart.gif5
icon_heart.gif4
icon_heart.gif3
icon_heart.gif2
icon_heart.gif1

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    We didn’t have telly in South Africa until I was 12. No- I’m not that old, it’s just that the stranglehold of the government’s censorship people was that strong and long-lasting.

    As a consequence, I only ever encountered my own teachers until my teens. To be brutally honest, none of those really stands out, and I can barely even remember any of their names. My class teacher in grade 5 was universally hated by the rest of the school and universally adored by her class and past pupils. We cried when she left to have a baby (no such thing as maternity leave in those days – in fact, married women couldn’t be given permanent posts as teachers and had to re-apply for their own jobs every year, along with anyone else who wanted the post. The same restriction did not apply to married men, of course!)

    Anyhoo. There was a maths teacher called William Smith (yes, I know) who had a TV programme and was absolutely brilliant at making maths understandable and enjoyable. In fact, kids used to fall over each other to get the chance to attend one of his master classes held in hotels around the country. I never got to attend one (probably because we couldn’t afford it), but his TV programmes were riveting.

    There was also my Gran, Joyce Norton and my choir teacher, Sheila Freercks, both of whom feature in this post about people who inspired me.

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    We didn’t have telly in South Africa until I was 12. No- I’m not that old, it’s just that the stranglehold of the government’s censorship people was that strong and long-lasting.

    As a consequence, I only ever encountered my own teachers until my teens. To be brutally honest, none of those really stands out, and I can barely even remember any of their names. My class teacher in grade 5 was universally hated by the rest of the school and universally adored by her class and past pupils. We cried when she left to have a baby (no such thing as maternity leave in those days – in fact, married women couldn’t be given permanent posts as teachers and had to re-apply for their own jobs every year, along with anyone else who wanted the post. The same restriction did not apply to married men, of course!)

    Anyhoo. There was a maths teacher called William Smith (yes, I know) who had a TV programme and was absolutely brilliant at making maths understandable and enjoyable. In fact, kids used to fall over each other to get the chance to attend one of his master classes held in hotels around the country. I never got to attend one (probably because we couldn’t afford it), but his TV programmes were riveting.

    There was also my Gran, Joyce Norton and my choir teacher, Sheila Freercks, both of whom feature in this post about people who inspired me.

  • Maria Hlas

    What a great idea! I love this and I loved Mr. Rogers, [heavy sigh]. I miss Henrietta Pussycat and Daniel the Striped Tiger. I will warn you, this is probably a long comment.

    So, teachers I have known and loved. Well there was Miss Vanpelt, my 7th grade English teacher. She was such the grammar stickler, but as a writer, I am glad she was.

    Then there was Mr. Thomas, my eighth grade science teacher. I don’t know if they even do this anymore, but half-way through a semester they would send out deficiency notices to the parents of anyone who was getting a “D” or “F” (the lowest 2 grades) in a class. Well I was getting a “C” and he sent one to my parents because he said I could do better (I went to a very small school where everyone knew everyone and all the teachers talked to each other!). So my dad yelled, I cried, my mother cried, and I had to bring home my book every night to study, etc. Well, he was right and he was willing to call me out on the carpet for it. I had been goofing off in class with the people I sat near, so he moved me to a different desk. And I hadn’t been studying or doing my homework very much. I think I got a “B” that semester and then I got an “A” later in the year. I was pretty mad at him, but I see now what a caring and brave thing that was to do.

    But the teacher that really sticks out in my mind was my Physics teacher senior year in high school (he was also my earth science teacher freshman year and my chemistry teacher junior year – did I mention that this was a small school?!). First off, as a someone who did better in English and rote memorization, I struggled through math and should have probably taken advanced biology since I have a hard time wrapping my mind around theories, advanced math, relativity, etc. But only sissies did that so I took Physics. Well he was a big believer in thinking and figuring things out for yourself, so he never actually answered a question. He asked another question, then another question, etc. until you got to the answer yourself. If I had a dime for every time he told us that in college there wouldn’t be someone there to hold your hand through all your classes – they would give you a syllabus at the beginning of a semester and you would have to be responsible to complete your assignments, papers, etc. yourself – I’d be rich. He was right. I can’t tell you anything specific that I learned that year about Physics. And I did really badly on the tests, but my grades weren’t bad because he gave you credit for trying and for asking a lot of questions. But I did learn a lot. And even though we all made fun of him – his first name was Alpheus, he seemed like he was ancient, he had these silly sayings, and all those stupid things you make fun of people for – we all came to realize what a wonderful teacher, and man, he was. He loved what he did and he really cared about us. His son graduated a year ahead of me and he told me his dad remembered all his student’s names and would ask his own children how people were doing after they graduated. (Geez, now I am getting all choked up thinking about him!) He was tough and caring at the same time – an amazing thing.

  • Brian

    A very fun and touching post.

    Happy Valentine’s Day Dr. Jones!

    Dr. Jones recently asked our class in a lecture to consider what game designers have learned over the decades about learning psychology and instructional design.

    How fitting that Mr. Rogers is learning about Donky Kong from a child 🙂

    Do you think Fred had any idea what e-learning would become two decades later at the time of that production?

    Brian

  • Brian

    A very fun and touching post.

    Happy Valentine’s Day Dr. Jones!

    Dr. Jones recently asked our class in a lecture to consider what game designers have learned over the decades about learning psychology and instructional design.

    How fitting that Mr. Rogers is learning about Donky Kong from a child 🙂

    Do you think Fred had any idea what e-learning would become two decades later at the time of that production?

    Brian

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    Wow, Maria – you had your very own Mr Chips!

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    Wow, Maria – you had your very own Mr Chips!

  • Erik

    Thank you for that clip. I grew up with Mr. Rogers but I had forgotten how gentle he really was.

  • Erik

    Thank you for that clip. I grew up with Mr. Rogers but I had forgotten how gentle he really was.

  • Unnikrishnan

    Janet, the post reversed my memory a decade and half (and Tom Junod sure knows how to how to turn the screws).

    While I did remember a few educators who mattered a lot to me when I was at school, I was reminded of M. Nannan, a scholar of Tamil, who used the then fledgling medium of television to teach Tamil (television came into its own in India only in the mid-Eighties). Curiously enough, even his vocal delivery was parodied by comics at that time. There was also educational programming by India’s University Grants Commission which used to last an hour every afternoon.

    I learned a lot from television when I was a teenager, back in the days when there was only one television channel, the government-run Doordarshan with its grainy production values.

    Now, with an endless choice of channels, most of which are overrun with soaps, television has betrayed its responsiblity as a people’s medium that could have overcome the enormous problem of reach to bring education to the Indian public.

  • Unnikrishnan

    Janet, the post reversed my memory a decade and half (and Tom Junod sure knows how to how to turn the screws).

    While I did remember a few educators who mattered a lot to me when I was at school, I was reminded of M. Nannan, a scholar of Tamil, who used the then fledgling medium of television to teach Tamil (television came into its own in India only in the mid-Eighties). Curiously enough, even his vocal delivery was parodied by comics at that time. There was also educational programming by India’s University Grants Commission which used to last an hour every afternoon.

    I learned a lot from television when I was a teenager, back in the days when there was only one television channel, the government-run Doordarshan with its grainy production values.

    Now, with an endless choice of channels, most of which are overrun with soaps, television has betrayed its responsiblity as a people’s medium that could have overcome the enormous problem of reach to bring education to the Indian public.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Karyn- Thanks for the link to William Smith.

    Just the other day I noticed one of my sons prior teachers who retired a couple of years ago has a FB group (“Mr. X, the legend”). What started as a spoof, I think, has turned into a tribute. Your teacher in grade 5 (if today) would probably have one too.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Karyn- Thanks for the link to William Smith.

    Just the other day I noticed one of my sons prior teachers who retired a couple of years ago has a FB group (“Mr. X, the legend”). What started as a spoof, I think, has turned into a tribute. Your teacher in grade 5 (if today) would probably have one too.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Maria – What a great tribute to your HS Physics teacher! He would probably get choked up just reading it. You should probably drop him a note…I’ll bet he still thinks about you.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Maria – What a great tribute to your HS Physics teacher! He would probably get choked up just reading it. You should probably drop him a note…I’ll bet he still thinks about you.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Hi Brian – Fun to think about – what he would have said back in 1980. He has a foundation that funds computer animation and has a web presence so I suspect it a kid asked him about the potential of the computer back in the 80s he would have given them something to imagine.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Hi Brian – Fun to think about – what he would have said back in 1980. He has a foundation that funds computer animation and has a web presence so I suspect it a kid asked him about the potential of the computer back in the 80s he would have given them something to imagine.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Unni-
    It’s so unfortunate – to have the reach but to squander it.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Unni-
    It’s so unfortunate – to have the reach but to squander it.

  • Maria Hlas

    Well, unfortunately our teacher was an older man and I found out a few years ago that he had passed away. I believe he was well into his eighties. Which is kind of amazing, because that means he was in his sixties when I had him as a teacher. Clearly he was forward-thinking for his time and certainly not just coasting until retirement!

    And I agree that there is a lot of junk on TV, but some channels like the Food Network and HG TV (Home and Garden TV) do educate people on cooking and home and garden projects. And you can learn from the History channel, Discovery channel and things like that, but that certainly isn’t the goal for most TV programs. And then there is the whole marketing angle to even those programs.

  • Maria Hlas

    Well, unfortunately our teacher was an older man and I found out a few years ago that he had passed away. I believe he was well into his eighties. Which is kind of amazing, because that means he was in his sixties when I had him as a teacher. Clearly he was forward-thinking for his time and certainly not just coasting until retirement!

    And I agree that there is a lot of junk on TV, but some channels like the Food Network and HG TV (Home and Garden TV) do educate people on cooking and home and garden projects. And you can learn from the History channel, Discovery channel and things like that, but that certainly isn’t the goal for most TV programs. And then there is the whole marketing angle to even those programs.

  • Maria Hlas

    What a great idea! I love this and I loved Mr. Rogers, [heavy sigh]. I miss Henrietta Pussycat and Daniel the Striped Tiger. I will warn you, this is probably a long comment.

    So, teachers I have known and loved. Well there was Miss Vanpelt, my 7th grade English teacher. She was such the grammar stickler, but as a writer, I am glad she was.

    Then there was Mr. Thomas, my eighth grade science teacher. I don't know if they even do this anymore, but half-way through a semester they would send out deficiency notices to the parents of anyone who was getting a “D” or “F” (the lowest 2 grades) in a class. Well I was getting a “C” and he sent one to my parents because he said I could do better (I went to a very small school where everyone knew everyone and all the teachers talked to each other!). So my dad yelled, I cried, my mother cried, and I had to bring home my book every night to study, etc. Well, he was right and he was willing to call me out on the carpet for it. I had been goofing off in class with the people I sat near, so he moved me to a different desk. And I hadn't been studying or doing my homework very much. I think I got a “B” that semester and then I got an “A” later in the year. I was pretty mad at him, but I see now what a caring and brave thing that was to do.

    But the teacher that really sticks out in my mind was my Physics teacher senior year in high school (he was also my earth science teacher freshman year and my chemistry teacher junior year – did I mention that this was a small school?!). First off, as a someone who did better in English and rote memorization, I struggled through math and should have probably taken advanced biology since I have a hard time wrapping my mind around theories, advanced math, relativity, etc. But only sissies did that so I took Physics. Well he was a big believer in thinking and figuring things out for yourself, so he never actually answered a question. He asked another question, then another question, etc. until you got to the answer yourself. If I had a dime for every time he told us that in college there wouldn't be someone there to hold your hand through all your classes – they would give you a syllabus at the beginning of a semester and you would have to be responsible to complete your assignments, papers, etc. yourself – I'd be rich. He was right. I can't tell you anything specific that I learned that year about Physics. And I did really badly on the tests, but my grades weren't bad because he gave you credit for trying and for asking a lot of questions. But I did learn a lot. And even though we all made fun of him – his first name was Alpheus, he seemed like he was ancient, he had these silly sayings, and all those stupid things you make fun of people for – we all came to realize what a wonderful teacher, and man, he was. He loved what he did and he really cared about us. His son graduated a year ahead of me and he told me his dad remembered all his student's names and would ask his own children how people were doing after they graduated. (Geez, now I am getting all choked up thinking about him!) He was tough and caring at the same time – an amazing thing.

Previous post:

Next post: