Education “Glue Guys”
Quickly checking my Facebook feed the other day – my PLN has joined me there as well as on Twitter – I came across a post by former MLB player David Ross in The Players Tribune about Elite Glue Guys in baseball. I knew it would eventually become a post about the “glue guys” (No patriarchal offense intended. The term, as coined, is “glue guys.”). I gave the article a second read, and something didn’t feel right. Partly because of Ross’ inexperience as a writer. Partly because his examples didn’t seem “glue”-like. After a third read, I almost gave up – it felt like there was no story here.
A quick google search for “glue guys” finally yielded fruit. Buried in a list of returned hits, I found a post by former NBA player Shane Battier about glue guys. Best of all? Shane Battier is the prototypical glue guy.
Not Duke University superstar Shane Battier.
I’m talking about NBA journeyman Shane Battier.
The best part is that Battier understands the importance of a glue guy and admits he was that guy.
I knew my value was helping us notch victories however I could. So there were certain things that I did to ensure that my team was always as prepared as possible. For example, I used to ask really basic questions during film room sessions. – Shane Battier
Battier goes on to share the types of questions he would ask
“Coach, can we run through that last set one more time?”
“Hold up coach, which direction do I roll out of this pick?”
“Wait coach, which player is supposed to switch here if the point guard drives?”
“Sorry, can you run through that set just one more time?”
Yeah, I was that guy.
Nobody likes that guy. I know that.
Education “Glue Guys”
This got me thinking about glue guys in schools. In my long tenure at Oshkosh West High School, I knew plenty of glue guys. From the colleague who responded to every district or building initiative with a litany of questions to the colleague who knew her peers did not dare to ask even simple questions, so she asked for them. And no, nobody liked when they asked questions because it always made the meeting longer. Check out this YouTube Mix of every meeting ever if you have forgotten.
We need these types of glue guys to have success as an organization. If we blindly accept every initiative without asking questions, we might always go in search of the shiny new thing. If we never help a colleague who lacks the confidence to ask questions, they may never find that confidence.
The Team Organizers
Even in a results-driven world, relationships matter, and the team organizer plays a crucial role in helping the rest of the team find balance, laugh, and communicate. In my time at Oshkosh West, a variety of people filled that role, organizing staff socials outside of school, having the annual “Venison Feed,” and making sure we celebrated births, grieved deaths, and much in between.
One of my favorite events – perhaps because it came at a needed time – was the annual chili cook off started by my former principal, Ann Schultz. I may be biases here, since I won the cook off in back-to-back years, but Ann made sure we carved out time in the day so ALL staff members could come to the chili cook off at the same time – no small feet with a staff of 150+.
You see, Ann knew that we needed time to commune, time to “dish,” and time to just relax and talk with each other as friends. I have no statistical data to support this, but I believe the work of Ann and so many others at West has contributed to the view of West as a successful school. When looking at adding people to your team, please keep in mind the need for these “glue guys” when making hires.
Not everyone can put the success of the team above personal success. Those who can, contribute as much – if not more – than the “stars” on the team. During my time as an associate principal at Clintonville Middle School, one teacher in particular served as a maximizer. Tiffany O’Toole, just like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, maximized the skills of so many teachers in our building and helped even teachers with whom she did not directly work elevate their teaching games. This despite the fact that on any other team, she would have been the unquestionable star. In fact, she may very well have been the star, but the success of the team was more important than her success.
Tiffany co-taught with two teachers directly, but when others in the building saw the success those teachers had, they would seek her out and ask questions. Working with the most successful teacher in our building, Tiffany helped him see “gaps” in his game and worked to help him fill those gaps. By adding technology to his game, he became even better and students flourished.
One of our 8th grade ELA teachers worked with some of the most challenging students in the building. Tiffany collaborated and planned with her to all students to become makers. Their Shark Tank project allowed students who had seen little to no success in school to find their passion and and earn applause from people outside of school.
Have you made sure to include a Tiffany on your team? If not, you should because they allow others to shine.
Elite Glue Guys
As Battier notes in his post, first ballot Hall of Famer Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs functioned as a glue guy his entire career. Nobody would question his greatness as a player, but his true greatness was in making the players around him – and thus the team – better. Sometimes, the rockstar teachers do this as well. Some of the best teachers I have ever known could have tooted their own horn, tried to monetize their work or prevented others from using their work. Instead, their greatness inspired others and he did everything he could to help others get better.
My longtime friend and colleague, Trent Scott, is one of those Hall of Fame teachers who looks at how he can make his department and school better. He could easily make the speaking rounds sharing his strategies for not just getting a high percentage of students to pass the AP Language and AP Lit tests but getting a high percentage of 4s and 5s on those tests. Instead, he focuses on how to bring in new Rockstars and cultivate a culture of Rockstars in the English Department at Oshkosh West. Trent tries to share the wealth, where possible, and makes sure other teachers have the opportunity to work with the same types of students he often drives to success.
Just like Tim Duncan, Trent is always where he is supposed to be (Well, except for that one time that he moved to California for a year and taught at The Kings Academy so his wife could be closer to family and he left me in charge). That consistency and unselfishness has allowed the entire department to succeed and earn recognition.
Moving To A New Team
Just as in the NBA, educators may move to a new team. I have done moved to a new school in a new district in a different part of Wisconsin. I have only met a few teachers in my first month-plus on the job, but I love the passion I see so far. I can’t wait to find out who the glue guys are at D.C. Everest Senior High School. The success and track record at this school stems from the often unseen work these folks commit to the school. In just a few more weeks, I’ll get to see what drives #EverestPride.
Bring. It. On.