BY GERRY CHIDIAC
Lessons in Learning
I am not a big fan of fiction in any format. I prefer that writers clearly elaborate their theories or that they explain what is actually happening in the world. I’ve also never been influenced by the latest draw in popular culture.
Given my disposition, I was surprised to find myself binge watching the hit comedy Ted Lasso on Apple TV. The program not only makes me laugh it draws me in, and dare I say, it even affirms my beliefs about leadership and education.
The premise for the show is ridiculous. Ted Lasso is a successful college football coach in the United States and is hired to coach professional football, what North Americans call soccer, in England. This idea was piloted several years ago for American television, but the personality of Ted Lasso in the current program is quite different from that of the original.
Ted has to adjust to an unfamiliar world and to the highly critical fan base of a beloved sports franchise. The jokes about differences in language and culture are predictable, but the evolution of the story is not what one would expect from a comedy series, or from any television program for that matter.
Most films and television programs are not realistic because they involve people screaming at each other, insulting one another and even killing each other. That is simply not what life is like for most of us.
In addition, the image that many of us have of a coach — in any sport — is someone who yells at his/her players and demeans them. Again, that is simply not what effective coaches do.
Ted Lasso is a kind man who treats everyone he meets like the most important person in the world. In truth, that is one of the most common characteristics of a good leader.
The main character is so positive that some critics have stated that he demonstrates toxic positivity. I would beg to differ. Toxic positivity refuses to delve into negative emotions. That’s not the case with Ted Lasso. At times, Ted does not know how to deal with negative situations in his life, or in the lives of others, but he is wise and humble enough to accept help when he needs it, just like a real, effective human being.
The depth of Ted’s character is revealed in an episode when he is playing darts with one of the show’s only villains. He quotes Walt Whitman and says, “Be curious, not judgmental.” In other words, be kind to others, treat everyone with respect, encourage them, and watch what happens.
The vast majority of people will respond positively to being treated this way. A good coach, teacher, or any leader, understands that doing so will draw out the best in others. They will not only be open to the leader’s instruction, they will begin to believe in themselves as much as the leader believes in them.
Of course, there will always be people, primarily adults, who will see kindness as weakness and will display manipulative behaviour, but Ted’s advice even works with them. If we observe them with curiosity we can learn how to respond effectively.
To this point, there hasn’t been any character in Ted Lasso’s inner circle who has not displayed growth as a human being under his tutelage. He has been able to create a work environment where people respect and truly listen to each other. Every character has their quirks and foibles, however, just like normal people do.
Admittedly, we have yet to see how the program and its characters will evolve, but the anticipation is all part of the fun.
Ted Lasso is only in its second season, and it has already garnered many well-deserved awards.
It really is a joy to watch a silly and unrealistic comedy about real life.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac