Lessons from Ted Lasso: 5 Lasso-isms We Can Practice in Relationship Building

Flashback to August 2020. My husband and I are both teachers, on the way out of town on a road trip listening to the governor speak about what school would look like in high covid times. It was hard to find good things in the world and hard to find joy. In the same month,  Apple TV came out with a brand new show that would spark joy and laughter but also hit some real heartfelt moments. “Ted Lasso,” is a show about an American football coach (Ted Lasso) who is hired by an English Premier soccer club  to coach with absolutely no experience of what soccer is or how the game is played, in the hopes that his lack of experience will lead the club to failure. WE ARE ALL IN TO THIS SHOW even to this day. Not only because it made us laugh but also because there were so many life lessons. For this Microblog, I’d like to take a few of the Ted Lasso-isms and share how they’ve actually been helpful to build relationships when teaching.

“Be curious, not judgemental.”

Originally a quote from Walt Whitman, Ted Lasso shares this Lasso-ism in the midst of a dart game- in a bar. Ted explains that growing up, every single person who belittled him never got curious about him. This has reminded me to ask more questions before jumping to conclusions and has served me well. I once had a student who consistently acted out and struggled to stay on board with whatever we were doing that day. It was constant and I didn’t understand why I had to do so.  One day it all came to a halt when I noticed her crying off to the side, unable to enter into the lesson for the day. I kept asking myself, ‘Why can’t she just do what I asked her to do.” That day, instead of reminding and redirecting, I got curious and asked her how she was doing instead of what she was doing. The statement she replied to me blew my mind out of the water. She said,  “Heebink, as of today I am homeless.” I was shocked but tried to show compassion in my face rather than how all the air was sucked out of my lungs with that single sentence. With the guidance of the school counselor, we were able to get her support that she needed. This conversation reminded me of being curious instead of judgemental because students are often carrying more than we see on the outside. If a student doesn’t feel safe, they will not be able to learn. Be curious.

“Be a goldfish”

 For the next Lasso-ism, I’d like to share what Ted Lasso says about goldfish. It sounds like they are the happiest animal in the world because they only have a 10 second memory. Hard things happen every day. Some lessons are worth remembering and doing again, but sometimes we have off days and that’s ok. Advocate but don’t complain.  Don’t sweat the little things. Forget quickly, move on, and find your “happy.” This is quite the goal and challenge for someone like me struggling on the daily with generalized anxiety disorder. When tiny petty things go wrong, I struggle to forget them and move on, and instead my brain spins them something terrible. I believe our students also need to hear this saying too. Life is short!  I now have a sign in my office: BE A GOLDFISH! 

“I believe in hope. Believe in ‘Believe’ ”

The second sign I have in my office is my “BELIEVE” poster. Google Ted Lasso “Believe” poster and you will see it everywhere. If you were a Physed or Adapted PE teacher through the pandemic, you know teaching through a pandemic this was never something we signed up for. How in the world would we teach movement through Zoom. While the first 8 days of the shutdown were devastating and realizing that this was going to be longer than 2 weeks, I noticed a shift in the Physed twitter world. We went from being lost, to ralling together to help each other. It was in this place that I found a spark of hope. As we all connected in both community suffering and also online community connection (due to the community suffering), it was in this spark of hope that I realized that if we all helped each other we would be more likely to make it to the other side. While I knew the #physed community on twitter was strong, but it was truly through this difficult time as an educator that I saw the strength of hope and the belief that what we did as teachers to reach students mattered. I would dare say that some of our lessons, habits, technology and organization skills may be even better as we may still be using some of them in this post-distance learning time. Our Physed twitter team mentality grew our relationships together and allowed us to reach our students better. Hope is what moves us from darkness to light. Hope is the spark to belief. Believing in belief (both of ourselves and what we do) is a grounding foundation that allows us to be steady in the storms of what teaching has brought us. So yes. I believe in hope and I believe in believe. 

“Just listen to your gut ok? And on the way down to your gut, check in with your heart. Between those two things, they’ll help you figure out what’s what.”

This quote gets me every time I read it. As an Physed/Adapted PE/Unified PE teacher I’m a dreamer with a big vision and a big heart for inclusion and the dreams usually come without details on how to map out those steps to those dreams. In 2017 I had a dream of students with and without disabilities coming together for a Physical Education class. I was also super burnt out as a teacher and felt there had to be more than what I was doing. After hearing about Unified PE there was something in my gut that said I should continue to move forward, whatever it took to get there. I shuffled into my admin’s office and literally just started off with, “So, I have this idea.” As she assured me she was onboard as long as my other departments were on board, she showed me the next steps to get the class going. After completing each step and the class being approved, I hoped for 12 partners with general education to match with 12 teammates with special needs for a 1 quarter class. I got 60. 60 PARTNERS. I COULD RUN THIS CLASS ALL 4 QUARTERS. And now 5 years later, my heart is singing. Students have a safe place to connect, belong and be brave. The relationships they have built not only expand beyond class, but partners have shared that their mental health has drastically gotten better because they don’t have to perform and love intentionally building relationships with their peers, expanding well beyond class. While this quote is not the only way to go making decisions, listening to my gut and letting it run through my heart turned to an output of passion. You can bet I know now, in this situation, I now know what’s what. So many relationships  have been built in class (and now next year 5 Unified classes with different content areas) because my gut wouldn’t leave me alone, and I listened.

“I’m a work in progmess.”

Ted’s life outside of coaching soccer is somewhat of a “mess”. There are a lot of factors throughout the 3 seasons, including a divorce and dealing with mental health (panic attacks) that lead to Ted asking his most trusted friends, “Am I a mess?” And honestly while his conditions are different, I have asked myself this same question as a teacher and human being so many times. Am I a mess? In fact, this last November, with so much going on, I found myself asking myself this question a few times per week (maybe per day). Panic attacks on the way to school, too much due process paperwork to do, and dealing with being away from school for a few things I loved to do but felt guilty about. I felt like a mess… a HOT mess. But I had to reflect and remember that messy situations don’t define me as a teacher and human. I am not my anxiety. When anxiety happens to visit, we work with the unwelcome visitor to help them leave as soon as possible.  Maybe we are dealing with messy situations and trying to hold it all together, but I love Ted and Rebecca’s (his boss) conversation after his question. Rebecca says work in  progress. Ted says, work in “progmess”. We can feel like things are messy, but remember we are on a progress journey at the same time. So he puts the word together. PROGMESS. Ted just put all of our feelings into one word. I dig it. And our students deserve to hear this Lasso-ism too.

Ted Lasso, thanks for reminding us that we are all human. Thanks for a spark of hope, especially during the 20-21 school year when things felt a little more hopeless. Remember to be curious, not judgmental. I believe in hope. I believe in believe. Just listen to your gut ok? And on the way down to your gut, check in with your heart. Between those two things, they’ll help you figure out what’s what. And lastly, I’m a work in progmess. 

You can check out Ted Lasso (we’re on season 3 now!) on Apple TV.

You can find Jen Heebink on Twitter @jenheebink on Tiktok @Mrsheebinkadaptedpe and via email at jheebink@bhmschools.org

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including 2022 SHAPE America National Adapted PE Teacher of the Year Jen Heebink, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com

Pair this blog post with the following:

My Why by Charlie Rizzuto

Unexpected Detours by Ray Ostrowski

100 Ted Lasso Motivational Quotes (Book)

What Would Ted Lasso Do?: How Ted’s Positive Approach Can Help You (Book)

Have you read the latest Book of the Month recommendation?

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