Deivis Pothin (Davis Po-tin) is an international school leader and educator who is passionate about empowering students’ lives through education.
Having worked in schools in the United Kingdom and in Brazil, he has built his expertise in working with teachers, students and parents from different nationalities, ethnic and social backgrounds. Such experiences have helped him to enrich his leadership capacity and to develop an international minded approach to education. He is currently the Head of School at Pueri Domus, a K12 IB bilingual school in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Daniel: When you think about your veterans staff, what words would you use to describe them? What categories would you put the veterans in and when it comes to making change and innovating, how on board would you veterans be for your flashy new ideas at school? The neat thing about today's guest Deivis Pothin, he inherited a school. He's the head of school there and they had significant change that they needed to make and his veterans were all on board. We're going to start with that story and how he built that influence and ownership with his veterans. We talk about being an introverted leader, and this is also my first guest, who is a leader from Brazil, which is such a treat. We get to hear a bit about Brazilian education. Hey, it's Daniel, and welcome to the better leaders, better schools podcast. This show is for you, Ruckus Makers who are out of the box thinkers, making change happen in education. We'll be right back after these messages from our show's sponsors.
Daniel: Transforming how you lead to become a resilient and empowered change agent with Harvard certificate in school management and leadership. Learn from Harvard business and education school faculty. While you collaborate with a global network of fellow school leaders apply today at hgse.me/leader. That's hgse.me/leader. Hey, Ruckus Maker my friends over at SMART have developed a research back tool that will show you not only your strengths and weaknesses, but where you should strategically focus your energy in order to drive better results for your students. This tool is called the ed tech assessment tool, and you can take it SMARTtech.com/profile. Take the ed tech assessment tool SMARTtech.com/profile. All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning. Whether that's in a distance hybrid or traditional educational setting, learn more organizedbinder.com.
Daniel: Ruckus Makers. I am I always say I'm excited, but I want to give you a real reason. I'm excited today. I'm speaking with a school leader from Brazil for the first time. We're going to bring his experience to you and this wonderful Ruckus Maker. His name is Deivis Pothin and Deivis is an international school leader and educator who is passionate about empowering students lives through education. Having worked in schools in the United Kingdom and in Brazil. He has built his expertise and working with teachers, students, and parents from different nationalities, ethnic and social backgrounds, such experiences have helped him to enrich his leadership capacity and to develop an international minded approach to education. He is currently the head of school at Pueri Domus Bilingual School (Verbo Divino Campus) in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Welcome to the show Deivis Pothin.
Deivis: Thank you very much, Dan. Your Portuguese sounds great.
Daniel: We're not going to stretch it past that. If I'm my head of your expectations, I don't want to fail anymore. So that's wonderful. Happy you're here and the question I want to lead with. I think it's a great story. You were able to bring in this massive cultural change at an international school. You told me you did this with veterans teachers that were there for some is as long as 35 years, which is just mind boggling to me because a lot of Ruckus Makers listening, they'll they call those veterans sometimes dinosaurs and sometimes not that they fully give up, but they're just known to be difficult to change and to get to try new things. Let us have it, tell us about this cultural change and how did you get the veterans specifically to buy into your vision?
Deivis: Well, first of all, just to give the audience some background about the school. I came into my current school to Pueri Domus, about three years ago. The school was going through a massive institutional and cultural change, as you've just mentioned. Up to three years ago, the school was already offering a bilingual program, but the way it was structured felt like two separate schools inside one. We had the Brazian program part time and then in the afternoon, the curriculum in English, the international curriculum. The teachers were different. The curriculum was different. So that's why I say it felt like two separate schools inside one. The school directors before I came they wanted to make a change and they wanted to bring that cultural institutional change.
Deivis: I came to make these integrated bilingual curriculum happen and put that into practice. From 2018, we started offering this bilingual curriculum, full-time education from nursery all the way to year nine to begin with. Last year we made some changes to high school. I'm 40 years old, so some of my coordinates and my heads of departments, they are obviously older than me. The way I wanted to get them on my side was first of all, to come and try and understand the scope. The culture of the school because I was new to the institution. I came in asking lots of questions.
Deivis: Why do we do this? Why have, how have we been doing such and such in that particular way? Why can we not do this? My curiosity and trying to understand the way things worked made people think about why they were carrying out the procedures and the way they were teaching and some different things. My curiosity, me asking them questions and having them to explain to me may make them think as well to begin with. Obviously, I had to take into consideration that they had a history, they contributed tremendously to this institution, to this school so many years before I even came to the school and I had to take that into account as well. The change of bringing this integrated curriculum and the way the directors and my executive director lead this transition was really empowering them to be part of the change. Bringing that experience to how we need to make, so we have new students they come with.You have a new generation coming up, they coming with new new needs and new ways of learning. We need a new school, so what can we do to change? I think it's bringing them part of the change, making them part of the change that really got the those more experienced on board. Really.
Daniel: Yeah. Well I think if I reflect back to you and for the Ruckus Maker, who's listening honoring the service, right. The veteran and understanding the contributions that got them to where they're at is a great place to start. They feel that they know if you think they're a dinosaur, or if you really do appreciate what they've done for the school. Secondly, even though you could, part of your job as a leader is to cast that vision, to see where the school needs to go. You have a sense, you can tell people go that way, or like you did brilliantly ask, why do we do it this way and set them in a reflective activity to have them assess why did we start doing it this way? Is it still serving the students we have now or could we do it better? It sounds like that really brought them in and built ownership to the change that needed to happen.
Deivis: Well, that's a key word, actually, that was going to say there's a great sense of belonging and ownership. I think the previous heads they did a tremendous job of bringing this community together. The teachers and the coordinators, the heads of department, they simply love the school and they wanted, I think it's a great sense of pride for them to be part of this change. Actually, part of the of the story the school is maturing is growing with the time is up to date and then they felt challenged. I think most of all, it's funny because when I talk it was the end of the first year, actually the first few months, I would say, when we changed the things, we started to change things dramatically, especially in the classroom, they felt it's unbelievable.
Deivis: It feels like I'm working at a different school now because things are being done differently, but also because I'm learning new things. Let me give you a very practical example, as I've mentioned to you. We used to have the Portuguese team, the teachers and the coordinators. We had the English language team and they worked completely separate. We have this understanding that a bilingual teacher, a bilingual school, both teachers are bilingual both coordinates are filing, are responsible for both languages because okay. One of them might have an expertise in English and and the other one in another language but they both need to understand how a bilingual child develops or this bilingual brain develops how this content language integrated learning the classroom takes space. So they were challenged in the sense that they were both, even though each one had a responsibility and they had their own areas of expertise, they are both responsible for the bilingual program and that made them feel really challenged to learn and to unlearn and to relearn. So to speak.
Daniel: I'm working on a second book, it's about the Mastermind and how we serve school leaders at better leaders, better schools. The reason I'm telling you this is I came up with a model that I think is what makes a community great. I call it the ABCs of the Mastermind, which I think will be easy for educators to remember as well. A is authenticity, B as belonging and in C is challenging. If you have those three components that leads to transformation. You mentioned belonging within your school, and I'd love to have you talk to me about that. I'm so interested in belonging. I think it's so important in terms of school leadership. What are some of those things that you do either intentionally, or you just discovered unintentionally that are cues for your staff and creates this environment of belonging?
Deivis: That's a great question. I think learning and education is all about emotion. You have to be emotionally connected to other people, to the workplace, and to the school where you teach, where you work. I think first of all, obviously you, as a leader, you have to make decisions. At the end of the day, you are ultimately responsible for certain , decisions, but giving your staff a voice or some kind of contribution that really enhances that sense of belonging to begin with. I have mentioned before I came to the school my director said the other heads, they said, "Okay, well, we have to make a few changes with our curriculum. We have to review our curriculum. Have to offer a bilingual curriculum for everyone, because that's what we believe in."
Deivis: There was a least a year of preparation. The coordinators were part of the change and the teachers as well, who were consulted they brought their own expertise. One of the things, another one is when you think about this, change, this cultural change because it could be some leaders could find it easier to replace the staff with a team that is really like-minded and where they want to get to the schoolwork. I personally don't believe in that. I think obviously you have to give people, you always give people the chance or give things an opportunity for things to happen and to make it right. Give them the chance to participate in this change and to make a contribution that was really important.
Daniel: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I appreciate what you shared there, that belonging pieces is incredible. Thank you for sharing. I'd love to talk to you about being introverted as a leader. There's a couple of questions I have here with that, but one would be what are some of the misconceptions you think that are out there of introverted leaders?
Deivis: As you mature as a leader and you get to know yourself, and I think from when I started my leadership career and that was back in Eaton in London, in England. As a subject leader in a primary school, in London, and then went to assistant heads. Most of the time, I was very concerned about the getting the job done to the best of my ability. Getting the the technical knowledge of the kind of the data and looking at it the best teaching and learning innovation and so on. I never really paid attention to myself as a leader and what's my motivation. It was a during my personal life, when I had some therapy like going to counselor and that really made me look at myself.
Deivis: And that self knowledge, self discovery improved my leadership skills dramatically because I was able to identify my strengths and actually being an introvert, I thought, well, actually, that's something really positive. Some of the misconceptions when people think about an introverted leader and then thinking about Susan Cain, the quiet revolution and all the movement that she's brought with to discussion. One of the main misconceptions that people are antisocial in a way, and they are shy or they don't like the people, which is a total misconception. I think being an introverted leader that really helps me to be more reflective, to be more analytic about things, especially I think this year in particular with the whole COVID pandemic where we were dealing with a crisis.
Deivis: We didn't know what was going to happen to them next day, how we were going to organize the school calendar and so on at times of crisis keeping the cool way, just let's take a deep breathe very deeply here, take a moment and let's think strategically. Really being an introvert gave me the opportunity to do this and to listen, especially. My staff my coordinates, my heads of school, they be heads of department, they know really well and they can't talk and bring their ideas. I'm listening, I'm taking notes and then I connect the dots. "Okay, guys. Okay. Let's think about what we said here" and that connection that active listening is a great quality of an introvert. Many leaders, obviously, but if you are an introverted leader, really, it's one of your features, so to speak. I think being an introvert is about how you reach out most importantly after a long day at work, even after a busy morning. Highlight, just to take a deep breath have a cup of coffee, just organize my thoughts here.
Deivis: , and that's how I recharge really. Whereas some people would just go and have lunch with lots of people when that's the way they recharge the batteries. That doesn't work for me. So yeah, lots of qualities. And I'm still, I'm still, I'm still learning and I'm discovering myself and my skills as a, as a, as an introverted leader,
Daniel: I absolutely relate. I don't know what people perceive me as maybe extroverted since putting out the podcast and that kind of thing, but I'm definitely an introvert. The podcast has helped me grow with my comfort level, talking to people and stuff. I mean, that's what I do now. I love the phrase that you shared, "Connect the dots" and the cool thing I want to point out, I think is significant for the Ruckus Maker listening is that if you deeply listen and you're able to connect those dots for people that has such tremendous value where I don't know if extroverts feel this way or whatever, but , often leaders feel the pressure of having the answer in what you do by deep listening and connecting the dots is you show those, you serve that they actually have the answer, right. And that's such an empowering moment. So thank you for, um, letting me share that. Was there something you wanted to add?
Deivis: No, I was just going to say that people really listen. They know when you're listening to them. When you feel listened to, I think and again, I think it goes back to maybe the way I like I like to lead, or I believe in how I managing and believe a school should be. At least for me, which is serving the community and bring in the best of people. When you listen to people, when you feel, when you have that connection with them that really makes you have them on your side. You build trust and you also build their own capacity because they can actually identify their strengths and they can come up with their own solutions.
Deivis: Many times, many times, they just need someone to go and say, "Well, you just came up with an answer now." No, it just needs that extra validation. As a leader, sometimes you need to make quick decisions and that's part of the job. If you just let me add another thing that I just remembered now, in terms of being one of the challenges, I would say of being an introvert and especially in this position that I'm in. As a head of school, you are by a public figure you are the image of the school in terms of how you will lead and everything and there are great expectations about what you, as the head of school will decide and so on.
Deivis: You've mentioned about your podcast I think with me as well and I've learned that public speaking and talking to others, it's much more about self-esteem than actually being an introvert or an extrovert. Really having acknowledged this really has really helped me to look at myself as a leader. What I I can do to promote, to strengthen that. And that really has had a positive impact on the way I lead my community as well.
Daniel: Yeah. Great. Well, Davis, we're gonna pause here for a message from our sponsors, but when we get back, I'd like to ask one more question about being an introverted leader and then get to some trends and things that you see from a high level, in terms of Brazilian education. Transform how you lead to become a resilient and empowered change agent with Harvard's online certificate in school management and leadership grow your professional network with a global cohort of fellow school leaders. As you collaborate in case studies bridging the fields of education in business applied today hgse.me/leader. That's hgse.me/leader. SMART has an incredible research backed tool that allows you as a leader to self-assess your capabilities at the school level or broader to help you with planning and prioritizing discover your strengths and best area of focus across five different modules, including leadership and remote learning.
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Daniel: All right. We're back with Deivis Pothin, international school leader there in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and we're so lucky to have you. My last introverted question, you mentioned a reflection process or deeply reflective. You mentioned having a cup of coffee sitting down and doing that. I don't know if you have a formal journal process or questions you'd like to ask yourself. Can you talk to us a bit about what that looks like for you when you reflect about your work?
Deivis: Well, I think it varies. Sometimes I just sit down or a little of the day, you at some point during the day, and I just go back through my mind, how the morning went, how a specific conversation went as well, and what I could have done differently. I think, especially if there is a challenging situation or a situation that really moves me out of my comfort zone. I think if I have the chance to do it, obviously, like I said, you have to make quick decisions and that's what we as leaders. But just thinking about the different outcomes of that decision, and then going back to my listening skills and to those who I work with or who I've worked with in the past want, were those people that I, that inspired me for example, what would they have done in that situation or have I learned about that in the past that I can apply to this? Now I can take a few seconds very quickly can take a few minutes. It depends on how it goes. One of the things that one of my heads taught me was about improving on past performance. I'll never forget this because this head of school in London. I was an assistant head at the time was very busy in the morning. She said, "Deivis, what are you're doing at the moment? I'm just doing such and such. Okay, let me just talk, everything, come with me please. Oh my God, I'm in trouble now." She said I wasn't. I was new to the job anyway, "Okay, I have I done?" She just said, "Okay, I just want to show you how I think it was my first or second week. I just want to show you how we actually turn our school vision into practice, how we can make that tangible to everyone. So let's walk around the school." We looked at, we walked around the school, we looked at the the classroom displays children's work and the way the school, the actual physical environment. She said, "Well, can you look at these two displays here. Can you see how the school vision is tangible here?" And that was such an amazing lesson that that she taught me at the time. Nowadays, when I have certain so that's the kind of experiments, past experiences that I've mentioned and again, being reflective is really important because that really stuck in my mind and I can always refer to in so many other experiences,
Daniel: Anecdote actually sparked an idea for me that I've never had. I'd like to share it with you. I've been in schools obviously, done walkthroughs, provided feedback about the physical environment, but what you just shared sometimes I have a pet peeve, something that irritates me about schools is they can look so dreary or they might even look like a jail or they're completely lifeless. They have no color. They they're just not alive. I'm wondering if that lack of creativity, inspiration on the physical domain of school is indicative maybe of a lack of a meaningful vision or at least a leader that connects the dots here that where's the vision being lived out in this physical structure of school. It seems like a big idea to me right now, but that's the first time I had it. I wanted that one to share with you and thank you for inspiring. Last question, before we get to how I end every show, I just want to hear from you high level, some things that you're seeing about, Brazilian education and what's going on there.
Deivis: At the time of this recording, we're still going through the pandemic and obviously like many other schools and countries worldwide, it was a very challenging year. Obviously, I think just the mere size of Brazil and all the challenges that are involved just with that know. You have obviously places like San Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, and other big cities where you have lots of resources and financial resources and access to resources. In the Amazon, for example, or who work part of in the Northeast where you don't have the students, don't have access to many resources. I think that is that's a real, real challenge and will be for a long time, I think the schools are closed still in Brazil at the time of this recording.
Deivis: Obviously, only high only high school education was back. In many other schools around the world the world we had to very creative in providing remote teaching, remote learning to make that happen. But that was really, really positive and obviously you have a huge gap between obviously state schools and private schools. Unfortunately, this gap just got wider (inaudible). Let's hope that the the Brazilian government and the society and the communities, they work together to close that gap as soon as possible. Something else that I think will be interesting for the listeners to get to know about Brazil is there has been maybe in the past two years or so, the movement towards more and more bilingual schools and bilingual education in Brazil, if you think about all the counters like Argentina, Uruguay, Chile where you have lots of bilingual schools, it's something quite new in Brazil.
Deivis: Obviously, we had international schools American, British and so on, but I think the schools and the parents and the educators, they are beginning to realize the value that bilingual education has and how much it adds to students not just cognition, but also social, emotional growth. As a Brazilian school, we're very proud to say that we are bilingual, Brazilian, internationally minded school, because there is still a misconception that for you to have this kind of mindset it needs to be an American or a British, or any kind of English speaking school. And that's something that I try and instill in all the students that they can have the equal opportunities.
Deivis: They can have the same access to the same universities and the same opportunities that many of the English speaking countries. Again, going back to the self-esteem. Going back to their self-belief. So that's something we really trying to accomplish here. In the three years that I've been in the school, I've been very proud of all the students, not only those who graduate at the end of high school, but also each one of them. It's great to see that progress and how they developed their social and academic language in Portuguese and English, and the both languages are equally valued.
Daniel: Thank you for the the overview, it's fascinating. You knew these last questions were coming here. Deivis, what message would you put on all school marquees across the globe, if you could do so for just a day? ,
Deivis: I would say it's about having high expectations of everyone in school, not just students. Have high expectations of your community. It's about You can look at it, it can have a broader view of what expect your, if you have an IB school, our current IB school, what your IB diploma students will get. The certificates and the grades and in what university we're getting to, but also to the smallest achievements in terms of during the lesson or they're able to achieve. I always had high expectations, always expect the best from people and that's also in terms of the staff you lead. And that's one of the lessons that I learned with one of my previous heads, which was a time when I had just arrived in England.
Deivis: I was a teaching assistant. I had a teaching degree from from Brazil, but it was just a few months in London and just having a conversation, "You got something to contribute here." So she saw the potential, she had high expectations. She gave me the space to grow and that's something that I try and practice every single day. So that will be my have high expectations of everyone.
Daniel: You're building a school from the ground up. You're not limited by any resources, you're only limitations your imagination. How would you build your dream school and what would be your top three priorities?
Deivis: Wow. Again, like you've mentioned in, I'll have mentioned this international mindedness is something that I really value. I would have a rotation of the academic here, part of the world every time in a new, in a new country, for example, that will be fantastic. Also give them the opportunity to the students, the opportunity to make a difference in their own community. I think that will be amazing.
Daniel: Deivis, Thanks so much for being a part of the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast. Of everything we talked about today. What's the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Deivis: Have high expectations. They expect the best from people.
Daniel: Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast for Ruckus Makers. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel@betterleadersbetterschools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @alienearbud. If theBetter Leaders, Better Schools Podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter @alienearbud and using the hashtag B L B S level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time until then class dismissed.
- Massive cultural change at international school
- Get 35 year vets to embrace change
- International mindedness transforms Brazilian education
- Misconceptions of an Introverted leader
- Connecting the dots with your leadership style
- Relating to staff in their own areas of expertise
- Really challenge you staff to learn and to unlearn
- The value bilingual education adds to cognition and social, emotional growth
- Tips on how to be reflective on yourself and school mission
- A simple way to do walkthroughs to measure if the vision is being lived out in your school
“I’ve learned that public speaking and talking to others is much more about self-esteem than actually being an introvert or an extrovert. Really acknowledging this has helped me to look at myself and to me as a leader. What can I do to promote and to strengthen that has had a positive impact on the way I lead my community.”
– Deivis Pothin
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