So I recently suggested that if you have some time, you should watch the Mister Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” And then I said “haha lol wouldn’t it be funny if I made a discussion guide for it LOLZ.” Well, TURNS OUT I SUDDENLY HAVE A LOT OF TIME TO FILL. So I settled in with some popcorn and kleenex and watched it again!
On the off-chance you aren’t familiar with him, Fred Rogers was creator, showrunner and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from 1968 to 2001. His show was groundbreaking for many reasons, a main one being that not only was it educational, but it covered children’s emotional and physical concerns, like divorce, death, and feelings. His focus on that last one, children’s feelings, is what really made the show, and him, special. If you ask any member of Gen Z or a Millennial, I bet they can tell you a time that Mister Rogers made them feel seen and understood.
When I saw this documentary in the movie theater, I immediately thought that every youth development professional in the country needs to see it. His insight into child development and dedication to love provide profound lessons for us. Even though he was focused on early childhood, we can all learn something from Mister Rogers.
An internet search will tell you where you can watch “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” when you are ready. (Note, it is rated PG-13 for language and one prank photo of a man’s backside.) After you watch, consider these questions:
- The documentary starts with Fred Rogers saying that one of his main jobs is to help children through “modulations of life.” What are some of the modulations you help your youth through?
- Very practically, Boys & Girls Clubs are situated in neighborhoods. How are we good neighbors to those around us?
- What do you remember about being the age of the youth you primarily work with? What did you need then from the adults around you?
- Fred Rogers treated children’s feelings as just as important as adult feelings. How does doing so build emotional safety?
- “I don’t think anybody can grow unless he is accepted exactly as he is.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
- “In this country, the child is appreciated for what they will be.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
- “I give an expression of care every day to each child to help him realize that he is unique.” What expressions of care do you show to youth?
- “The most important learning is the ability to accept and expect mistakes and deal with the disappointment they bring.” How do we help young people to deal with mistakes?
- “In response to the question, ‘What would Fred Rogers do?’ It’s not a question that you can answer. The most important question is ‘What are you going to do?'” What are you going to do?
- Think about someone who helped you along the way for one minute. How does it make you feel?
What other films, shows, or books do you think all youth development professionals should see? Let us know, and we just might make a discussion guide for them too! You can comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share.