“wow, I have to say goodbye to all these people.”

Mr. Christopher Scott Cole was born in New Jersey, U.S.A. and came to Brazil with his Brazilian wife, Adriana, an OLM alumna. They are going back to the USA...

 

by Gabriella Nothaft  & Isabela Lopes (´18)

His first interview as HS Supervisor can be read at 

http://s1995lucia.wix.com/olm-olmatters2014-15#!hs-new-supervisor/c1gf6

OLMatters:  When you first got here, what did you expect your experience to be like, both in Brazil and in OLM?

When I first got to Brazil, my wife and I were in a transition in our lives, from the careers we were in and really trying to figure out where we wanted to go next, with our careers, with our lives… So when decided to move to Brazil, it was a challenge for me to experience new things and, most importantly, to see where my wife was from. One of the initial outsets for me was that I was going to move here and experience “her life”, the life she had as a kid. So, my first goal was to see where she came from and kind of “embrace it”, and I did that, and the next thing was to figure out what I was going to do about my career. When I first came to OLM, I sat and talked to Dr. Lyndaker, and we talked about education. I told him about my financial background and I said, "well, I love math. I don’t know if I’ll be able to teach it well, but I’d at least like to check it out.” And he said, “ok, let’s give it a try.” And so I came in and observed Ms. Freire’s classroom, taking courses outside of class, for almost an entire year before I got offered a job. I worked hard just to “get my foot inside the door!” It was really interesting for me, coming into a Brazilian classroom as compared to an American one. In the US, the teacher comes in and that’s it, the students are quiet. But here, when I got to Ms. Freire’s class, it was a small group, and they were talkative, and she was teaching, and I was like “what’s going on here?” But I found out very quickly afterwards, when I saw their quizzes and tests about the content she taught, that they did get it. While I thought they were just speaking to each other, they were actually paying attention and learning. The quizzes showed really, really strong scores and so I said well, I guess it does work that way.

OLMatters: What was changing from finance to education like for you? Was it confusing, or difficult…?

 

Well, here’s the thing, working in finance I was working with business sales, so I dealt with banks and mortgage companies and, it’s funny, because people talk about adolescents being immature, that you don’t understand the word “no” , but there’s a lot of adults and clients I dealt with at times that were the same, so I guess there’s a lot of parallel with teaching and being in business, “teaching” your clients about the products, and there’s a lot of people who don’t understand “no, I can’t do that kind of thing” or “no, we don’t work with that product” and they would throw tantrums, per se. They’d get upset with you and curse you out on the phone and say “I’m never doing business with you again”. So both are a human relations kind of thing, and it was fun to see the connections. For me, being in education is much more personally rewarding than being in finance. It’s true, there’s a larger financial reward when working with finance, and I guess that if you’re an egotistical person making a lot of money is a good thing, but the personal reward of education, how it makes you feel in your heart, it’s so much greater in education.

OLMatters: How will changing back to finance be like?

 

When I was going through the interview processes now, to find a new job there [in the U.S], one of the things I talked about a lot was my experience in education and how it’s been so rewarding to me, and about my experience with multicultural individuals, students from all over the world, from Russia, Japan, France, from all over South America, anyways, from all those different areas around the globe. I think that, for me, understanding how to deal with people from different backgrounds is definitely something that I’ll walk away with and transfer back to what I’m going to work with. Actually, I think going back into sales is not a lot different than education. Like I said before, it’s a sale in the classroom. You have to be able to convince the students of what you’re teaching, and they’re asking themselves “Can I trust him? Do I know where he’s going with this? Am I going to follow him?” It’s basically the same thing in business. Your clients trust you, they’re gonna follow you into whatever you’re selling to them or whatever you’re working with them on, and if they don’t it’s just like students. They get demotivated. You have to make it interesting for them and I’m excited to get back into it.

OLMatters: What was the most challenging part (at OLM)?

 

There are cultural differences, not just here, but in every part of the world. I think that, sometimes, understanding a cultural difference is one of the toughest parts. For example, someone was picking up stuff from my apartment, and we set the meeting for four o’clock. And then 4:30 came, and they sent me a message saying “well, I’m gonna be late and haven’t even left this other place yet.” And then it was 5, 5:30, and then it was almost six. So, two hours later and our whole schedule was pushed back, and my son was waiting… So that’s an example that was hard to adapt to, being late. Another thing that’s been really hard for me is leaving. I remember when Mr. Rundle was leaving, and we were having a meeting for him, and I was getting emotional.  Basically, I was thinking that him leaving was kind of like a metaphor for me leaving, and I was thinking, “that could be me, what if I find myself in that situation?”  Looking at all the people and realizing you have to say goodbye to a good friend, to everybody. And now I’m leaving and I’m looking at the staff and thinking, “wow, I have to say goodbye to all these people.” But it’s not saying goodbye forever. It’s not like closing a door. This is something I talked to the seniors about. When you graduate, when you separate from close friends, you don’t close doors. You might be apart, but the friendships that are really worthwhile, those you can sit down with after a long time and pick up right where you left off, they’ll stay with you. You never separate them from your heart. That’s how I think about my relationships here. The relationships that are meant to be kept will be.

OLMatters: What was the best part about being here at OLM?

 

That’s a tough one. I think it’s the relationships. And when I say the relationships, I have relationships with the students, first and foremost, and with the staff that I work with, with my “team”. I’m a support person for them, for you guys, both inside and outside the classroom, and you all are a support for me. The way I see it, when you look at the best part about something, the most important thing is keeping relationships. In business, here in education, in non-profit work, if you’re an engineer, or whatever you do, you need to have interpersonal skills to be able to relate to people and be able to truly work together. And so, for me, the most important part about being at OLM was the relationships.  Because with all those that I made here, not only did I make tremendous bonds, but I also had a better understanding of different cultures and people.

OLMatters: What is the biggest legacy that you're leaving?

 

I think “legacy” is a really big word! That may be something that I’d be too proud to say: I was able to leave a “legacy”… I appreciate it! I’d say I had a really big part in developing the AP Program, developing a platform for teachers and students to be engaged in a high level in the areas that they’re interested in, because I think for, Ms. Freire, for example, who we all know very well, it’s really engaging for someone who’s been teaching almost 30 years here to be able to pick up AP Statistics and have more than 20 kids take the exam. And she was so highly engaged, so proud of the students. And on the flip side, it’s great that 23 students decided to take the class. You couldn’t even fit them all in the room! I had to find more chairs and desks! So when I look at it I say - “ok, there’s one think you can be proud of” - I’d say it was me trying to lay a foundation that you could always build from, that is basically not just the APs, but also the Brazilian entrance exams, like PLS, or BSS Prep, which are classes that we have that could help with those exams. We have to have a balance for the kids that stay here and those of you that go to the U.S. to study.  We need to cover both grounds. I think it’s important to have a very strong side for AP and for the students who you want to go abroad and a very strong side for students who want to stay in Brazil, so that their better prepared for the local entrance exams. Of course, you can’t be everything, but for us to have the best we can with the finite resources we have, I mean, there’s numerous APs, and we’ve only got 12 teachers. So with those finite resources, I’d say my legacy is to create, or to start a foundation, that could create an ideal situation for students going in either direction, and to be able to go to an area that would really engage them, same for the teachers, and to be really excited about that class and perform really well. But I still think legacy is a really big word… !

OLMatters: What is the most important thing that you're taking with you?

 

I would say first and foremost, you know, like I said initially, is my understanding of my wife and her story, and also the only place she would have a baby was here in Rio. So I would say first is my understanding of Brazil, its own culture, my son, and then beyond those two, I mean, he goes to school here, so of course, it would also be school.  The relationships from school, and like I keep saying, my better understanding of different cultures and in particular, the Brazilian culture and mindset. So I think that most people might have learned different things, but I can say the value of friendship/bonds, having my son, and understanding more about my wife's background are the most important. My wife went to school here. She walked through these doors. If you think about it, it makes a full circle. She went to school here since 4th grade, her sister since preschool. She completed her time here at OLM and went to the United States to go to college. And then we came back to Brazil, Nicholas was born, and now we’re going back to Florida so we could be closer to my family, geographically. So I think that there are a lot of great things I’m taking…

OLMatters: What message would leave to your successor as HS Supervisor?

 

In all sincerity, I would say for the next High School Supervisor to: value a strong working relationship with all students and staff, first and foremost, work well with fellow administrators, and parents alike, because if you don’t have strong working relationships, communicating with them will be hard sometimes, and vice versa. Parents get upset about certain things that shouldn’t happen, and that’s fine. Remember, we’re all working for the same common goal, which is to have the best school possible, create the best learning environment and learning opportunities for you students. I think there is important value in relationships, which are good and bad, at times. Sometimes they’re really easy, sometimes they’re hard, but keeping in mind as you were a parent, understand how much fight you would have in you for your child and looking for the best opportunity or the best results for them, and that’s how we envision it happening. But leaving that aside, there is one thing that I would say to my successor: Value relationships, bridge gaps, because sometimes gaps are created within staff, within the community, within the administration, within certain segments, whatever they may be, so be a maestro that plays the entire orchestra well, because if you don’t have all working together, you’ll have a really goofy sound. The guy in the drums is playing to one beat, the guy in the guitar is playing something else, and so on, and they don't match very well.

OLMatters: You’d never been here before?

Never! I mean, only once, when we pretty much knew we were moving here. We were here for a week during Carnival the previous year. But c’mon, you can’t get the whole idea during Carnival. It’s not the reality of the real 52 weeks a year.

Christopher Cole