An Interview with 1st Grade Teacher Carolina Castro

We took a field trip to visit Carolina Castro, a first grade teacher in Guatemala. She shared what’s on her mind this year as she gets ready for back to school!

Carolina Castro Elementary Teacher Headshot

What is one word that describes your intention or goal for this school year?

Carolina: Joy

What are some traditions or superstitions you have for the first day of school?

Carolina: Traditionally I like to get to school really early so that I can greet all the kids as they come in. Since I teach first grade and I’m also a mom, I think of what parents would like to have as a way to remember their kids’ first day, just like I remember my girl’s first day of first grade. For the last couple of years, we’ve had kids hold a sign that said “My First Day of 1st Grade,” and took photos of them. Then we uploaded them to Seesaw. We also had kids draw a picture of themselves on their first day, which we saved and gave back to them on the last day. On the back of that one, we had kids draw a picture of their last day of first grade.

How do you use Seesaw to connect with families?

Carolina: I love taking photos and videos of kids, and then posting them on Seesaw for all parents to see and be involved in our classroom activities. It’s a great tool to keep everyone in the loop in a safe way!

Share a notable teaching moment that you still think about today.

Carolina: We focused a lot on mindfulness and self-regulation last year. We learned strategies for understanding what one is feeling and then calming down. We talked about how sometimes we need other people’s help to realize we need to use a strategy to self-regulate. One day, one of the students in my class who has a lot of problems managing his emotions was having a fit. One of his classmates moved close to him, put his hand on the child’s heart, and said, “Breathe with me. Let’s do it together. Snake breath. You can do it.” The other child calmed down. I felt so proud of both of them!

How does Seesaw bring learning to life in your classroom?

Carolina: I especially love Seesaw when kids use their creativity to show their learning! For example, last year we had kids come up with their own version of one of three fairy tales we studied. They had to make their own characters, backdrops, props, scripts, sound effects and light effects, and then use Seesaw to show their fairy tales. Most of them filmed themselves. It was amazing to see how much they learned and how creative they can be!

What are your tips to build relationships with families at the start of the school year?

Carolina: I think that the best way to build relationships with families is to treat them with familiarity. When I talk to families eye-to-eye and help them realize that we both want the same things, it’s a lot easier to build relationships. There’s a spark when caretakers acknowledge that you’re there to help their child grow and learn, and to support them as caretakers along the way as well. Even though it’s a lot of work, sending a friendly email with one positive comment about each kid is a great way to get started!

If you could take your students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them? And why?

Carolina: In first grade we study the Aztec and Maya, so it would be wonderful to take them to Tenochtitlan and Tikal so that they can see what they are learning about first-hand. We also read about a dinosaur fossil, so I would also love to take them to the Museum of Natural History in NYC and have them see a T-Rex.

What is the best compliment you could get from a student or a parent?

Carolina: You made me believe everything is possible.

If participants take away one thing from your #Connect2023 session, what would you want it to be?

Carolina: I want teachers to see that everyone can think deeply and show their thinking, including little kids. All it takes to incorporate higher level thinking skills into their teaching is to start! The more teachers use Visible Thinking Routines, the clearer it becomes and the easier it is to incorporate them into everyday teaching and learning.

What would your students be surprised to find out about you?

Carolina: I think it always surprises them to know that I am a regular person with life outside of school, who enjoys doing many of the things they also love to do! For example, I like to surf and ski.

Join Carolina Castro at Connect 2023!

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