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STORIES FROM THE FIELD

Know Yourself Better as a Human Being

International Education: Stories From the Field
By Loretta Fernando-Smith
10-Apr-24
Know Yourself Better as a Human Being


In this collection of stories, international educators share their unique experiences, insights, and perspectives. These accounts include how some began their international school career, things to consider if you’re curious about the international teaching landscape, what they’ve learned along the way, and the unparalleled journeys on this career path.

Join us as we delve into the stories of these inspiring educators and gain a deeper understanding of the transformative power of education across borders.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Hi, my name is Loretta Fernandez -Smith. I have been an international teacher for 23 years and I'm currently at Frankfurt International School in Germany, where I’m working with the early years.

How did you get into international teaching?

I got into international teaching kind of accidentally, but kind of on purpose. Towards the end of my education, my school had an international job fair and those teachers in education were able to attend and so I did. And I was offered a job the first day and I thought that sounds exciting, Singapore. I'll give it a go. And that's how it started. But when I got there, I realized that it really was meant for me. I had grown up in various places as a child and so just being international and being among people who love to travel, and also my children that were navigating different cultural spaces at the same time, felt like home to me.

What have you learned from working in international schools?

When you’re working in an international school setting there's such a diversity in languages and cultures and preferences. And I think we so often assume that our understanding of something is the same as somebody else's understanding, and that isn't always the case. So just really being cognizant of that and realizing that the presumptions that we come in about something is not necessarily what our colleagues might be thinking, what our families might be thinking, what our students might be thinking. So that's something that I've definitely learned about myself- what my biases are coming in. And also, just to be careful of that and mindful of that.

What is your advice to teachers who have not taught internationally?

Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it. Do it, do it, do it! It’s scary because it feels like it's so far away from home and it might also feel a little bit lonely because you're gonna have to do it on your own potentially. But I think it is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. It teaches you more about who you are, what you want, and it teaches you so much more about the world. I think in our world that is so connected and yet at times so polarized that is what we need more of-for us to cross those boundaries, to understand each other better and ourselves better. So yeah, definitely do it. It's a fantastic experience just for traveling but also for getting to know yourself better as a human being and as an educator.

What would you like to see happen in your career?

One thing that I would like to see happen in my career. I have been at Frankfurt International School for a very long time. I'm really comfortable and it feels like home, and I wonder sometimes if I should push myself. I don’t want to. I guess I need to give myself the same advice that I am giving you.

 

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Loretta is a teacher with more than 20 years of experience in international schools. She grew up between cultures, moving several times during her childhood. She is also the mother of two multi-racial, Cross Culture Kids. Her experiences of straddling several cultures as a child, adult, parent, and educator have made her aware of how people negotiate belonging in different spaces. This tension drives her curiosity, inquiry, and research into belonging. Her study on young children’s perceptions of belonging in culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse settings is a part of the recently published Handbook of Research on Critical Issues and Global Trends in International Education. Loretta currently enjoys exploring the world with 4- and 5-year-olds at Frankfurt International School.




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