Simple Interactions, a project of the Fred Rogers Center in partnership with researchers at Harvard University and University of Pittsburgh, has been adopted by schools, afterschool and summer programs, and other organizations for children in 35 states and several countries, including in China, Canada, and Scotland. Under the program, educators’ interactions with children are filmed to help strengthen relationships and educators’ professional growth. The approach is inspired by Fred Rogers’ words that we learn and grow best through relationships. Junlei Li, senior lecturer in early childhood education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, developed the program based on Rogers’ belief that media can be a positive force in children’s lives. Along with recording adult–child interactions, the model highlights four elements of human development—connection, reciprocity, inclusion, and opportunities to grow. The Simple Interactions tool defines opportunities to grow as “presenting incremental challenges and matching with appropriate support.” The data collected are used as feedback for teachers and others working with children, and a one-page resource illustrating the interactions serves as a means for conversation.
Schools have—for the most part—opened, which has been a monumental lift for districts, schools, and most of all, teachers. I have three kids in school, coached in school districts with tens of thousands of students, and supported programs running in schools across the country. In so many ways I’ve seen how schools, coaches, and teachers have cleared the hurdle of offering an education to students nationwide.
It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic shut-down school districts nationwide. The U.S. shifted into a state of loss and then grief. Loss of what we thought was stable including income, job security, and daily routines. Loss of over a year’s worth of social plans we had for ourselves including graduation parties, family reunions, and weddings. Plans have been put on hold repeatedly and hearts have felt the heaviness of disappointment non-stop.