Be Curious

I’ve been rewatching the series Ted Lasso recently. I watched a few weeks ago, but my kids took an interest, so I’m watching it again. For those who may not have heard of the show, it features an American football coach (Ted) who moves to England to coach a Premier League team. While the show examines the cultural differences between the United States and the United Kingdom, the series is really about compassion, communication, and fatherhood. It’s a great watch.

Since the show features a lot of coaching references, I can’t help but think about the teaching aspects embedded in the main character’s role. Despite the challenges of coaching a sport he doesn’t really understand, Ted Lasso regularly demonstrates that the most important part of his work is building relationships with his players and by offering support in their times of need. Throughout his coaching, Ted drops witty words of wisdom to his players and coaching staff. Some (like “Be a goldfish”) become regular themes throughout the series. Others are offered in passing, but clearly have a larger impact on the players and coaches with whom Ted is working. Honestly, I’ve thought about writing a whole post just about what Ted Lasso can teach us about teaching and learning (and I still might). But this post took precedent today.

Last night, my family and I watched one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. I won’t get into the details of the episode, but at one point Ted references a Walt Whitman quote: “Be curious, not judgmental.” Ted shares the quote at a pretty pivotal moment in the episode, which really adds weight to the words. But beyond that, I’ve been reflecting on how powerful that quote can be for us as teachers. Before I dig into that, however, let me offer a slight admission. I couldn’t find any solid evidence that Walt Whitman ever said or wrote those words. In a poem, Whitman writes, “Be not curious about God” but I couldn’t find any reference to a poem where he said “Be curious, not judgmental” directly. I guess it’s one of those misquotation mysteries that happens via the Internet. So, I’ll just credit Ted Lasso.

Moving to Ted’s charge to “be curious, not judgmental,” I know I need to embrace this a little more in my work with students. I’ll have a student who hasn’t turned in an assignment or didn’t show up for class, and my initial reaction is to judge the student for their actions. Maybe a better route would be to be curious and check in with the student. I could easily send a quick email and inquire about their well-being. I’ve offered this advice in other posts (see Lead with Empathy) but I think it deserves reexamining and reframing. I know that empathy may not be an emotion that a lot of people feel comfortable with. But we can all get behind curiosity, right? Be curious.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether Ted Lasso said it, or Walt Whitman wrote it. What really matters is that we’re curious about things before we make judgements. This applies to our roles as teachers, to our work with our colleagues, and to our lives as social beings interacting in communities, big and small.

One thought on “Be Curious

  1. Pingback: “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” | A Fine Line

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