There are two big things the pandemic has given us that we didn’t know we needed. One is an emphasis on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and the other is TED LASSO.
Now you’re probably asking yourself, what on earth does an Apple TV show about an American football coach who is recruited to coach soccer in England (despite having zero experience) have to do with SEL?
But, what is SEL? Good question.
“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” – CASEL.
As a former classroom teacher and current SEL advocate, I was blown away by how many SEL lessons are depicted in this heartwarming show about soccer/football.
At its heart, Ted Lasso is a show about so much more than sportsball. It’s about what we can do, and be, as humans, to make the world a better place. So, here are some of the SEL lessons we find in Ted Lasso. While these lessons are tailored for educators, I think you’ll find a bit of something in it for everyone. Much like the show. I hope you enjoy.
Lesson 1: Learn Student Names
Ted, this modern day Mr. Rogers, does what every good teachers knows— he learns and remembers names. Our names are essential to our identity so pronouncing a students’ name correctly is especially important.
Teacher Tip: Instead of sounding out an unfamiliar name in front of the whole class, ask all the students how they pronounce their names.
Lesson 2: SEL is for EVERYONE
SEL starts with adults. Every adult that a student encounters during their school day has the potential to make a positive impact on that student. It’s truly a team effort. (Pun!)
Lesson 3: Make Connections
“We can’t be good partners, unless we get to know each other.” – Theodore Lasso
Relationships are at the heart of schooling. We can’t teach who (and what) we don’t know, so getting to know our students on a personal level is essential. Coach Lasso illustrates this by conducting a little personal interview with his new boss.
Teacher Tip: Ask your students to tell you 3 things about themselves that you would never know.
Lesson 4: Motivation is Key
Want to know what motivates your students? Just ask them.
Teacher Tip: Make content relevant. Students are more motivated when they can see connections between the lesson and the real world.
Lesson 5: Consider Perspectives
This one is sooo 2021 (which by the way, is like 2000 years too late). Perspective-taking is one of the best ways to develop and increase empathy.
Teacher Tip: Check out this Perspective Detective strategy.
Lesson 6: Don’t Give Up
Our goofy coach is literally a walking talking example of Growth Mindset. Our mindset determines our relationship with success and failure, personally and professionally, and, ultimately, our capacity for happiness. Everything Ted sees, encounters, and experiences is a lesson— even the hard stuff.
Lesson 7: Solicit Feedback
There are two kinds of people in this world (and this is true for CEOs, teachers, presidents, etc.): those who solicit feedback and those who don’t. Take one guess who is better at their job?
“If we’re not asking them what they need, we’re not giving them what they need.” – Dena Simmons
Teacher Tip: Provide students with an opportunity to share their questions, comments and concerns anonymously.
Lesson 8: Celebrate the Wins
No explanation needed. But this feels like a good time to point out that movement and music are excellent ways to lift the vibe in your classroom.
Teacher Tip: Ask your students “If you were a song, what would you be and why?” #Integratethearts
Lesson 9: Get to Know Your Students
Talk about getting to the the heart of the matter. If you want to know who someone is, ask them about what they love.
Teacher Tip: Check out this HeART Project Strategy
Lesson 10: Normalize Emotions
We all have them. Emotions are just information. Emotional regulation is a huge part of SEL.
Students need opportunities and support learning how to identify and manage their emotions. Our students (and people in general) do better when they realize that they do not need to be bulldozed by their emotions. There are lots of ways to manage and regulate our emotions. It just takes practice…or training depending what side of the pond you are on.
Lesson 11: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
A little self-exploration never hurt anyone. However, it can be uncomfortable to be confronted with aspects of ourselves that we might not like. Ted is not afraid to take a little self-inventory. After all, we can’t change what we are too afraid to see.
Lesson 12: Be Curious, Not Judgemental.
In SEL, we prioritize responding over reacting. Here’s a little example where this lesson came in very handy for me.
One day, when I was a high school teacher, one of my students walked into class and said:
“Ms. D, you got a pimple.”
Now, as you can imagine, my initial reaction was a mix of horrifying embarrassment and white hot rage. But, I had my thought, felt my feelings, and then instead of judging her as “disrespectful,” I got curious.
“Honey, why are you telling me this?”
And then she proceeded to give me the most unexpected response.
“Because Ms.D, It’s ready to blow. You go to the bathroom and take care of it and I’ll watch the class for you.”
See what happened here? She had my back. She was just being honest. I was five seconds away from taking a disciplinary action that would have ruined both our days and done damage to our relationship when in reality, this student was just looking out for me…and my pimple.
Teacher Tip: Never take student behavior personally. It’s not about you.
At the end of the day, students don’t always remember what you say, but they always remember how you make them feel. Every person that Ted Lasso encounters walks away feeling seen, heard and appreciated.
A good question to ask ourselves as educators is: How do we make our students feel?
Ted Lasso makes you feel like he’s playing an acoustic coffeehouse cover of Don’t Stop Believing on your heart strings. And that is a good lesson.
Written by Trisha DiFazio