I can remember it clearly. I was sitting on the floor next to my sisters and watching a small box television mounted on top of a T.V. tray that was not built to hold a T.V. We sat on the floor as we heard that familiar sound of a child’s piano playing. We would get a safe feeling when we watched the camera pan over a little town of make-believe houses on a small street and the little red trolly rolling past. It was a beautiful and welcome sound for three little girls who had so much trauma in the home.
Life was hard for my family. Like so many children in the world today, we had an abusive parent. For us, it was our father. He was mean, he was scary, and he was an alcoholic. We hardly heard kind things from him.
Children with trauma need Mister Rogers.
It was a rare, beautiful moment when we could sit in front of our small television and listen to Mister Rogers tell us that we were loved, important, and special just the way we were. I would sit and fill up on those words, and I would process big feelings in that short program. It was my therapy. I credit much of my survival to Mister Rogers.
Mister Rogers spoke to me, and all the other children tuning in that were suffering from horrendous abuse at home. He told us that we were valid and that our feelings about our experiences we mentionable and manageable.
In one interview, Mister Rogers said, “I guess I am an emotional archeologist.” He says he was always looking for the roots of behavior. He had a knack for explaining feelings and understanding childhood feelings.
Trauma and the Classroom Teacher
The only other place I got that feeling of being safe and valued was in my school. It was my safe place, my sanctuary. I was able to walk into my classroom and see my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Hughes, and I knew I was loved. When I was hungry, she would often buy my lunch. When I was sad, she would sit on a bench with me at recess and talk to me about my feelings. Mrs. Hughes cared, and I knew it. I have carried that feeling to my adulthood.
Lessons from Mister Rogers and Mrs. Hughes
I am now in my classroom, and I have taken some of my teaching methods from Mrs. Hughes and Mister Rogers’s lessons. I have applied them to my teaching methods. Mister Rogers taught me that my big feelings mattered when I was small. He taught me that feelings are mentionable and manageable.
Mrs. Hughes taught me that I was important and my needs were critical, too. I understood what it meant to be loved and feel safe. I knew in second grade that I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to impact the lives of children in the same way Mrs. Hughes did for me.
Children Need You, Mister Rogers and Mrs. Hughes
For over a year, much of the world has been impacted by COVID 19. Trauma has become part of every child’s daily life. So many children are not able to go to the classroom. This is especially hard for children who have home lives like the one I had growing up. These children look forward to going to school where they feel safe.
I know that children can tune in to old Mister Rogers Neighborhood programs and feel some of what I thought as a child. I believe children Mister Rogers now more than ever before. We need him to help us process how we feel about what is happening. We need him to validate our fears. We need Mister Rogers to speak softly to our fears and calm us.
Children need Mrs. Hughes, too. They need to have that teacher who loves and cares about them. Children need someone to greet them each morning with a smile. Children need someone happy to see them when they enter the classroom. Children need to feel welcome.
I am so thankful for Mister Rogers and Mrs. Hughes. I wish that we can all return safely to the classroom so that children can feel safe, loved, and validated the way I did when I was in class with Mrs. Hughes or when I watched Mister Rogers on my television set.