Teamwork Interview~Mr. Bellaimey
We interviewed Mr. Bellaimey about his take on this month’s theme, teamwork and teaming. Here’s an edited transcript of the conversation:
Flint: We’re talking about team building this month for October and we’re breaking it down into two things, differentiating between team building versus teaming. Team building is developing and strengthening connections between individuals in order to create a cohesive and efficient team, and is used for long-term things like sports teams or friendships. Teaming on the other hand is when people need to work together for a short amount of time to achieve a task and in order to do this form some sort of structure within which they can work together.
Bellaimey: So clearly LaMOG has elements of both of that because we’re also building the whole seventh grade, but it’s interesting to think about, is what I’m doing building grades or building a museum where every year I get turnover. And I think the answer is a little bit of both, right? But also I’m constantly teaming, I’m constantly thinking about how can I build a group of three that can get something done. Because the worst thing about running this museum is that it’s me and then there’s 50 other people that report directly to me. If it were a company and there was a CEO and then 50 other people reporting back to them it would
be a nightmare! So I’m constantly having to think about something that’s very Flint, which is how do you get kids to lead groups without me being like “you‘re the boss.” And sometimes I can and I do say oh you’re the leader you’re the manager but the first year I had three students who had a role where they were truly enforcing the law and that sucked for everyone, no one liked them being in charge, because it didn’t feel organic, it just felt like they were given this power. And who liked it the least? Them. Cause everyone was mad, you know? In one of the lessons I took from that I have to think about leadership in a really careful way, so I can create leadership without creating power dynamics. Other than me no one else should have to be the “boss“.
Flint: Why do you think team building/teaming is important and shouldn’t be overlooked?
Bellaimey: Because almost all work in the world is done together. And that goes for work in your community, sports, families. And I think a lot of the time we jump right to the product we’re trying to create and we don’t think about how that process works. People make fun of team building activities because they’re often associated with when businesses are like “boy everyone really hates each other we should go out into the woods and do trust falls.” And the problem is what you really should’ve been doing is just thinking, from the beginning, about how people feel working here. And the main reason isn’t because they hate what they do, it’s because they hate how they relate to the people they work with. I have some friends who have the coolest jobs on earth and they have a really bad day at work every day because they don’t get along with the people that work with them, or the dynamic is off. And I have some friends that are waiters or waitresses and they love their job because everyone at that restaurant loves each other and look after each other and it’s really clear how everything is supposed to flow, and so to me team building can take work that seems really boring and turn it into something that you really love. And that’s everything, right?
Flint: Do you have any personal stories or experiences related to team building you’d like to share?
Bellaimey: One thing I think about is the improv group I had in college. I took it so seriously. It was the most important thing in my life even though all we were doing was stupid improv games, but in part it was because of this dynamic of “this is something that we all care about and something that existed before we came here and that we’ll hand on to the next generation,” and we took that very seriously. We also just spent a lot of time together and the group didn’t have a leader. It was just twice a week, we spent a lot of time together doing improv. And now, one of my roommates is a guy who was on the improv team, and another guy who was on the team lives about two miles from me. And recently we started getting together again to do improv, and there’s something so special about that. What I realized from that experience and from what I’ve seen since is that a huge part of building community and building a team is just spending time together. Like my roommate Ben, we would never hang out if we would just had met each other, we are very different people. He’s kind of dark and cynical and I am, you know, bubbly and high energy, but because we were forced by circumstance to spend so much time together and to do work together we became something that was almost deeper than friends we became almost family, and the best teams are like that. Then I guess to try to put a nice bow on this, that’s kind of how I feel about Flintridge prep. The students here have this attitude towards school that I find to be very rare. It starts with the seniors but it comes all the way down, which is, “welcome”. You are now part of a thing and it’s kind of weird, like we’re going to read the menu during morning meeting. And what I always see in those moments is that kids at prep care about the community at prep. Every other high school I’ve been in has had the cynical thing like “The teachers are trying to ruin the school!” It’s so easy to fall into that, and the fact that that doesn’t seem like the mainstream dynamic here is something really precious that makes me love teaching here.
Prep: Thank you so much!