An Interview with Primary School Teacher Loretta Fernando-Smith

We took a field trip to visit Loretta Fernando-Smith, primary school teacher in Hessen, Germany. She shared what’s on her mind this year as she gets ready for back to school!

Loretta Fernando-Smith Primary Teacher Headshot

Pick one word that is your focus or intention this school year.

Loretta: Curiosity

What is your favorite activity to build classroom community during the first week of school?

Loretta: Storytelling! Last year I invited children to bring something from home that held a story. They shared their story with the class and as they shared their story it woke up stories inside all of us. We get to know and connect with others and ourselves through the stories we shared.

Primary School Student Collaboration and Creativity

What is your favorite “teacher hack” or “tip”?

Loretta: Stay curious! You are the teacher but you can also be a learner. Children have so much to teach us.

How does Seesaw bring learning to life in your classroom?

Loretta: Seesaw, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . . documenting growth, sharing the classroom with families, inviting families near and far into our learning, as a tool for student reflection, for extending the classroom walls . . . Seesaw provides so many possibilities to transform our learning . . . it’s all about how we view it and use it.

Primary Students Collaborating with Art Supplies

If you were able to have an unlimited amount of something for your classroom, what would it be and why?

Loretta: Art supplies . . . pastel watercolors, clay, beads, wire, chalk, sparkling gemstones, yarn, tape . . . because they bring joy, they can help us think through ideas, communicate our thoughts, nurture our creativity, research and motor skills . . . and because replenishing them can be expensive.

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

Loretta: After over 20 years of teaching, I still get nervous about the first day of school, especially the night before! I pick a ‘first-day’ outfit and lay it out before I go to sleep.

How do you use Seesaw to connect with families?

Loretta: Come to my session at Connect! That’s what it’s all about – Building Belonging in the Classroom through Seesaw.

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

Loretta: Think about the way that you use Seesaw right now. Does it embody what you believe about education?

Share one Seesaw goosebumps moment. Was there a time learning was captured on Seesaw that gave you goosebumps?

Loretta: “This is a parent story. I currently live in Germany where my children also go to school. Their school uses Seesaw. I feel such gratitude and joy when I see their grandparents in Canada and their aunt in England engaging with posts from their classroom! I love how Seesaw can connect us even when we are physically so far apart.”

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

Primary school students playing outside

Loretta: Anywhere?! I feel very lucky to live and work right beside a forest. We spend every Thursday morning in the forest. It’s such a magical space. It has become our second classroom and teacher. There is such joy in jumping into a muddy puddle! Especially as an adult.

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

Loretta: Sometimes, I don’t want to be at school either!

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

Loretta: There are a few. I think those moments happen for me when kids really push me out of my comfort zone, when they offend my adult sensibilities or challenge norms. It’s those moments that cause me to reflect and continue to nudge me to do better as an educator and as a human being.

What/who inspired you to become an educator?

Loretta: My grandpa, who was a Kindergarten teacher and loved stories. I am a fourth generation teacher.

Primary Students and Teacher playing outside

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

Loretta: I always try and remember that families are entrusting me with their most precious possession. Sometimes families can feel challenging, I try and remember that their demands may come from a place of anxiety: ‘is my child going to be ok?’ Especially in the early years, parents as well as children experience separation anxiety. Listen. Be empathetic. The relationships you build now will help you later. After all, we all want what’s best for the child and we all need to work together.

What is your favorite quote of all time?

Loretta: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” -Helen Keller

What is your favorite children’s book?

Loretta: Do I have to pick one?! I love Kate DiCamillo and the Mercy Watson series.

Join Loretta Fernando-Smith at Connect 2023!

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