Bring in the New Year With More Curiosity and Less Judgment

Alyssa JonesBlog, Connect Better, Differentiate Better, Reflect Better


  • Being curious rather than judgmental leads to better understanding and compassion toward others.
  • Shifting your mindset and helping others can create a positive safe space for all.

Bring in the New Year With More Curiosity and Less Judgment 

Most people have heard of the hit TV series, Ted Lasso, in which an American football coach is exported to the U.K. to manage a British football team. In a particularly moving scene from the show, the protagonist Ted and the antagonist Rupert—the vindictive former owner of the team—place a significant wager on a game of darts. Taking his final turn at the board, Ted shares the following leadership lesson.

“Guys have underestimated me my entire life and for years I never understood why – it used to really bother me. Then one day I was driving my little boy to school, and I saw a quote by Walt Whitman. It was painted on the wall there and it said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that.” (Ted throws a dart.)

“So, I get back in my car and I’m driving to work and all of a sudden it hits me – all them fellas that used to belittle me, not a single one of them was curious. You know, they thought they had everything all figured out, so they judged everything, and they judged everyone. And I realized that they’re underestimating me – who I was had nothing to do with it. Because if they were curious, they would’ve asked questions. Questions like, ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?’” (Ted throws another dart.)

“To which I would have answered, ‘Yes sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father from age ten until I was 16 when he passed away.’ Barbecue sauce.” (Ted throws a double bullseye to win the game.)

Pursuing Curiosity

Our minds are meaning-making machines—constantly making assumptions, judgments, and looking for patterns. Curiosity is not only about learning new information, it is about trying to understand and appreciate one another. 

At the end of the day, our perceptions are the lens through which we understand the world. What would happen in our schools if we all committed to being more curious and less judgmental in 2023? Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, our perceptions are the lens through which we understand the world. What would happen in our schools if we all committed to being more curious and less judgmental in 2023? Collective Teacher Efficacy is the belief that teachers can more positively impact the learning of their students if they work as a team. CTE is strongly correlated with student achievement (John Hattie). “Collective” refers to the power of groups over individuals. How could this practice transform our relationships with both the adults and students we work with?

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Ways to be More Curious and Less Judgmental 

  • Listen to understand. Being an effective listener is a critical skill. It goes deeper than listening just for facts. Oftentimes, when people speak from a place of emotion, they are telling you what they value. Use that opportunity to listen for values and learn from this. What is really going on? What is important about that? Why does that matter to them?  When we listen to understand, we create a safe space for others to share—without fear of judgment. 
  • Ask powerful questions. Talk less and ask more. Understand that asking questions is essential for building collaboration and trust, and a great strategy for unlocking others’ potential.  
  • Challenge perspectives and beliefs by helping staff/students see things from a different lens. Ask questions that challenge someone’s way of thinking—ones that push them outside of their comfort zones. Not only can these questions help people get unstuck from their current perspective, but they can also alleviate some of the pressure and potential fear they are experiencing.  

Practicing curiosity, listening without judgment, and creating a safe space for learning—and mistakes—is how we build capacity and confidence within our educational spaces and in our personal lives.

How will you be curious, not judgmental, this year for your students, staff, and community?


Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, by John A.C. Hattie and John Hattie

Brene Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. (New York: Random House, 2018)

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins

About Alyssa Jones

Alyssa is an Instructional Coach at District #16 where she leads educators in professional development aligned with best practices and collaborates with teachers during coaching cycles. A Google Certified Educator, Alyssa values the combination of tech tools and learning intentions to create a masterful design for instruction. Alyssa has a BS in Special Education, a BS in Elementary Education, and a MA in Curriculum Development and Instruction.

She is currently pursuing her Ed.S in Educational Administration and Leadership. Alyssa has presented at various state and national conferences on social-emotional learning and cultural competence, assessment and grading practices, language arts instruction, project-based learning, MTSS, and digital citizenship. Alyssa’s husband Mike is a Middle School Principal, and they have three children: Maddie who is eight and twins Hannah and Hudson who are three.