April 7, 2022

Inspiration from Mister Rogers, for teachers everywhere

Ask anyone and they will probably tell you they have a favorite teacher. Maybe it was the teacher who was extra funny or who told the best stories. Perhaps it was the teacher who inspired you into your chosen career. Or maybe it was the teacher who just took a little extra time to get to know you. Oftentimes, it is not the teacher who taught you the most academically. 

While educating students in a certain subject is a teacher’s primary goal, it is rarely the only thing they impart on their students. They are among our first role models and often instill a love for learning and provide guidance, inspiration, and compassion. Here at The Social Institute, teachers inspire us everyday by the strength and creativity they display as they continue to support the whole student. 

How teachers teach all of us

According to World Bank, there are an estimated 85 million teachers worldwide. Teachers are the backbone of society because they shape and educate the minds of our future politicians, scientists, activists, and teachers! In between spelling tests, times tables, and history lessons, educators impact our world’s future everyday by providing our next leaders with the tools they need to achieve their goals. 

One life-long learner and celebrity, Oprah Winfrey, credits her love of learning to her teacher, Mrs. Duncan. Oprah says that Mrs. Duncan created a classroom space in which she never felt afraid to be smart and be herself. 

Teachers, like Mrs. Duncan, who actively support their students’ well-being, are a major catalyst for student health, happiness, and future success. In fact, there is a direct correlation between the commitment a teacher has to student well-being and the quality of that students’ education. Research shows students’ academic scores average 11%  percentile points higher when the school supports a students’ well-being. Students who feel supported wholly and who have teachers who support them beyond academics work harder and take more personal ownership in learning.

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

One educator who inspired millions of students and teachers around the world is someone many of us remember from our childhood, Fred Rogers, also known as Mister Rogers. Rogers spent his life inspiring students, teaching learning tools, and providing us with ways to strengthen our inner curiosity. He did this in a calm, caring, and nurturing capacity. 

Rogers used his television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, as a platform to support student well-being and provide his young viewers with the “tools for learning.” These tools included embracing curiosity and creativity, communication and collaboration, and celebrating and connecting with one another.

In a recent webinar, we spoke with Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr, authors of  “When You Wonder, You’re Learning,” a book about bringing Mister Rogers’ lessons into the digital age. They shared with us how Mister Rogers, just like teachers, continues to be a model of curiosity and example of how to create safe spaces for students to learn.  

Ryan shared that, “Mister Rogers knew that learning was more than academics. Academics are important, but he also knew that academic learning has to be paired with a nurturing of what is best in us. You need both. One without the other is insufficient.” 

Modern Day Learning: Teaching and Technology

In a 2019 study of 250,000 middle and high school students, 47% percent of them said they are disengaged or simply doing school. Clearly, modern day learning is constantly evolving, especially in a post COVID-19 world. Educators in the modern day have the opportunity to take advantage of the technology that is so present in our daily lives and empower our students to use it in a constructive way. 

How can we equip students with the tools they need to use technology to improve overall learning instead of being distracted by it? 

Some of Mister Rogers’ most powerful teachings encouraged students to “Be Kind, and Be a Good Neighbor.” These life skills and teachings can be applied to students’ learning and tech use, as students use technology to dive deeper into what they are interested in and how they connect with others – both online and off. 

It’s no secret that students are ahead of the curve when it comes to social media and technology. But, teachers still have the power to influence and empower students to find their voice online and use it for good. Similarly, Mister Rogers showed us that learning reaches beyond the classroom. Gregg Behr shares that “Mister Rogers knew that learning happens everywhere, not just in the classroom.” 

How Mister Rogers Continues to Be an Example for Educators

When we look back at the legacy of Mister Rogers, there is still so much we can learn. 

The tools he gave us are among some of the most valuable ways we can enhance a student’s well-being. We know that relationships and community are crucial in classroom environments. As Mister Rogers once said, “It’s through relationships that we grow best and learn best.” 

When speaking with Gregg Behr, he shared that he is inspired by the culture and relationships Mister Rogers created. He said, “When thinking about the work that Mister Rogers left for us, we are able to ask ourselves what atmosphere are we looking to create that will support not only academic success, but also the whole child?”  

Ryan continued, “We recognize Mister Rogers as an educational television program. But, when we went back, he never taught us about fractions. He taught us his tools for learning such as communication and curiosity. Even now, 50 years later, these have been found to be more than 10x more predictive of children’s long term success than test scores. They cost almost nothing to develop. Mister Rogers showed us the beginning of emotional intelligence, and that no matter what you may be feeling, no matter what is going on in your life- you are acceptable in this thing called the neighborhood.” 

So, as we reflect on all of the educators that inspire us, the teachers that show us the power of learning, and the classrooms where we learn to value education, we want to say “Thank you.” 

Educators, like Mister Rogers and you, impact our future in profound and positive ways. We understand this is a huge undertaking. That is why we want to help educators empower students to navigate their well-being in positive ways through turnkey technology. Learn more about how you can empower your entire school community that saves teachers time and helps them better understand and build relationships with their students.