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Let Mister Rogers Lead Your SEL Efforts

Let Mister Rogers Lead Your SEL Efforts

Decades before educators were familiar with the term “social and emotional learning (SEL),” Fred Rogers was teaching them (or in some cases, their parents) SEL lessons that would turn out to be timeless. The world has become faster-paced and more complicated, which means that today’s students are in dire need of the caring, understanding, and inclusiveness found in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Here are some ways to add SEL to your practice by channeling the legend himself:

Own your emotions

A key tenet in social and emotional learning is recognizing and owning the emotions you are feeling at any given moment. Only then can students truly connect with each other and with educators. Check in with students on a regular basis, even if it’s just a simple: “How are you feeling today?” For an added challenge, go around the room with that question, requiring all students to use a different term for their current emotional state. In the following clip, Mister Rogers talks about how to “master the mad that you feel”.

Reflect in the classroom

Reflection in the classroom often focuses on previous academic performance, but it is also important to recognize where students have come from culturally, emotionally, and developmentally. For this, a daily share of a baby picture works great. Have the students guess whose baby picture is being shared, then have that student give a brief reflection of the time of their life represented in the picture. In the following video, Mister Rogers reflects on what it is like to know that you’ve helped someone grow.

Connect with people

One of the goals of SEL is to help students connect with people in meaningful ways, especially in a time where escaping from your surroundings is as easy as reaching into your pocket for a mobile device. Encourage your students to be warm and kind to one another. One way to accomplish this is to make sure that any groupings in your classroom are fluid, meaning that everyone will have a chance to work with other students who they may not know well (yet). Use whatever grouping strategy you like, but make sure that it’s random. In the following video, Mister Rogers explains the importance of learning from others and appreciating the differences we all have.

Develop a growth mindset

Key to the idea of the growth mindset is an appreciation for work as a tool for improvement. If you are working with your students on recognizing the difference between the growth and fixed mindsets, a great activity is to ask them to reflect and share about specific instances where they displayed both. Mister Rogers talks about the value of work many times during the course of the show, but the episode devoted to his own job is probably the best.

Mister Rogers was truly an icon, and he taught many children some of life’s toughest lessons. His legacy lives on in the hearts of all of us.

Interested in learning more about implementing SEL into your classroom? Check out these six SEL strategies!

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Scott Sterling

Scott Sterling is a former English teacher who worked in Title I middle and high schools in St. Petersburg, Florida who is now a freelance writer who focuses on education. He is also a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year-old daughter Lily, who will soon be starting her own educational journey.