April 2015

Transition Time

By Hedda Sharapan

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions these days.  For one thing, it’s spring which always is a welcome transition in this Pittsburgh neighborhood!  I also wanted to let you know that it’s a transition time for me and the newsletter.

For the newsletter, it’s a minor change – future issues will be coming to you from The Fred Rogers Center, and the format may look a bit different.  It’s a bigger change for me.  I’ve recently been named Senior Fellow at The Fred Rogers Center.  So I’ll be shifting some of my responsibilities (like the newsletter) from The Fred Rogers Company to The Fred Rogers Center.

To help you understand the distinction between the two organizations, The Fred Rogers Company is a media company, producing programs for PBS (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Peg + Cat, and Odd Squad.)  The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media is at St. Vincent College, east of Pittsburgh, in an academic setting, housing Fred’s archives and helping scholars and students learn from Fred’s approach.

As a Senior Fellow I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to analyze hundreds of hours of taped meetings between Fred and his chief consultant, Dr. Margaret McFarland.  In those meetings they discussed the themes, scripts and the child development philosophy that served as the foundation for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I’m sure that what I’ll learn will enrich the newsletter, too.

Thinking about transitions these days, I was reminded of how skillfully Fred handled all kinds of transitions in the Neighborhood series.   He always took the time to intentionally prepare us for what’s next and to help us move on from where we’ve been, to where we’re going.  Here’s a great example from the Neighborhood visit with Ellis Marsalis and his sons. 

Mister Rogers with the Marsalis Family

Here are some things we can learn from Fred about dealing with transitions:

Talking about what’s ahead
Fred always took the time to tell us what’s next and where he was going.  Sometimes he showed us pictures or items related to what was next.  He introduced each day’s Make-Believe episode by talking about the story.  He intentionally prepared us for each shift.  You do that, too, when you take the time to talk about what’s next on the schedule, especially if it’s going to be somewhat different that day.

Letting go gently
As I watched the video, it was obvious that Fred was reluctant to leave the Marsalis family and their wonderful music.  Think about how many transitions in our own lives are like that.  It can be hard to let go, and it can take time to deal with those feelings.  That’s just as true for children, for example, when they don’t want Mommy to leave, or don’t want to come in from the playground or put their block buildings away.  

After Fred left the room, we had more help making the transition because of the continuing background jazz music.  That’s much like children use a transitional object – or like you use music for your classroom transitions. 

Moving On
Fred didn’t just remind us of where we had been, he also helped us move us along.  By pantomiming the various instruments, he gave us a way to stay connected with the musicians  through a related activity.  That’s like the scaffolding you offer when you help children draw, talk or play about what they experienced.  When you give children a way to remember where they’ve been, it can be easier for them to move on.     

It takes time to deal with transitions – leaving things behind and moving ahead in a new direction, whether it’s a child moving on to the next child care room or an adult moving to a new home or new position.  I hope you have people who give you the time and caring support to deal with the transitions in your life.  That can help you have a great appreciation for what you give to children during those times. 

'As a Fred Rogers Center Fellow, I am looking forward to continue learning about Fred’s work …and to share what I’ll be learning with you.

Hedda Sharapan
M.S. Child Development
Director of Early Childhood Initiatives


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Timeless Wisdom
From Fred Rogers

It is tempting to cling to the familiar. Just like in music, if we keep living...playing in the key of C, we wouldn’t have to take any risks of not making it to the key of E-flat. But we’d never know what it sounded like unless we tried. And once we’ve had the practice and the pleasure of making a transition from one key to the next, the subsequent times might not be quite so difficult.  

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