There’s one thing in particular that has been weighing me down…
It’s that I can’t speakSpanish…
Even after 6+ years in grade school taking the language and being part of a Spanish family, I still can’t speak it fluently. Most definitely not comfortably.
Here’s the thing…
My Mom Is From Chile In South America. My Dad, On The Other Hand, Is Canadian.
We never spoke the language at home while I was growing up. Except for a few key words like “hola” and “ciao”.
While all my cousins were busy picking up the language that was being spoken around them, I couldn’t put together a single sentence. I couldn’t even have a conversation with my grandparents…
This Past Fall, My Grandfather Suffered a Stroke.
He wasn’t able to recover.
Just before Christmas, he passed away…
I thought long and hard about how my entire life I never had a full conversation with him – not unless someone translated for us.
I wish the language had stuck. I wish I could’ve had a real conversation with him.
Because He Had One Heck Of A Story To Tell…
During the 1970’s, Chile was anything but a peaceful place.
The military overthrew the Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende. This was the start of military rule in the country.
Many Chilean citizens like my Grandfather, supported the efforts of President Salvador Allende. He brought civilian rule, stability and peace to the country.
But all of that ended in 1973 when President Allende was killed and the General of the Military Coup took over.
It became illegal to show any support for the old government.
And my grandfather…
Well… He was an activist who supported the old government.
The military dictatorship would raid homes and look for signs of support.
They found my grandfather.
He was taken away. He became a prisoner of this war.
I wish I could have asked him about it. I wish I could have gotten more details.
Although, even if I spoke Spanish, I don’t know that he would have been able to tell me everything without crying.
He disappeared for some time…
And when he returned to his family, they (along with other families who supported the old government) fled to Argentina.
But in Argentina, things weren’t any easier.
Homes were raided again and again by the military in search of supporters of the old government.
My mom, who was only 5 at the time, tells me how she remembers being forced out of their little temporary home and shuffled down the stairs with her 7 siblings. They would all wait until the search was over and they could return up the stairs.
I was told that my grandpa carried a picture of the old president and hid it while in Argentina. Luckily, they never found it.
Eventually, my family was able to leave the war-ridden land in search of a new home.
A New Home In Canada.
A friend of mine in university once wrote a paper on my grandfather. She interviewed him about his time as a prisoner in Chile.
Sadly, her computer was stolen and I never got the chance to read all that he said.
Another reason this regret of not learning Spanish hung heavily on my shoulders.
This Blog Post Is Not About Regret.
It’s about REFLECTING and LEARNING!
After all this, I realized… I still have one grandparent left – My beautiful Abuela.
And she has her own story to tell.
I decided that I didn’t want a language barrier to be the reason my grandmother could not tell me her story either.
I Took Action!
I made the decision to learn Spanish (finally)! For my grandmother and my grandfather.
And… I used the practice of Mindfulness to help me shift into a growth mindset to learn this new language!
Here’s how I’ve been learning Spanish with the help of Mindfulness:
1. Find Calm:
My first step in moving forward in my Spanish journey was to practice forgiveness. I had to forgive myself for not learning Spanish earlier. I had to let go of the past and move forward with the present. I had to find my calm and not let the past control my future. It all began with that mindset shift. To reflect and learn from my mistakes. And to remind myself that it’s never too late to learn something new.
2. Get Curious:
To learn from my past self and move forward, I had to ask myself a few questions. Questions like “Why hadn’t I been able to retain the language before?” “What can I do differently this time around?” “What can I use to motivate myself?”
Upon reflecting, I noticed that when I tried to learn Spanish before, it was as an adolescent. I was a kid who didn’t care and a kid who was not self-aware. I’ve changed since then and so has my motivation to learn Spanish. I was able to use these questions to nail down my WHY and HOW I wanted to proceed.
3. Make Connections:
Since I did have some experience being around the Spanish language, I could understand it slightly (only if someone spoke REALLY slowly), but I couldn’t speak it. I knew, to get better at speaking the language, I had to practice speaking the language.
I made plans to connect with family members and friends where we could have real conversations in Spanish. I even got myself a few penpals, young cousins of mine, who’d help me practice my written Spanish! I am grateful for my family’s patience with me.
4. Get Creative:
Since I was no longer in school, and didn’t have a dedicated time and class to attend Spanish, I had to figure out my own schedule to practice. I had to get creative!! And because speaking is much harder for me, I knew I had to practice any chance I got!
I live about an hour from most of my Spanish family and being with them all the time is not ideal.
So… this meant I started speaking to my boyfriend in Spanish (who is definitely NOT Spanish), I started speaking to my pets and even shared some of my thoughts out loud in Spanish. I realize I looked pretty crazy some days, but you gotta do what you gotta do!
5. Make a Commitment:
The final step was to make a commitment. To myself. To this life-long journey. And to not get discouraged when the going gets tough.
To make this commitment manageable, I broke down my commitments into small attainable goals. Goals that I could work towards every day. I adopted this practice of ‘Kaizen’ (a Japanese word that means continuous improvement through small, incremental steps). I committed to practicing 15 minutes of Spanish everyday through the Duolingo app. This was manageable. This has been something I’ve been able to commit to.
I also made the commitment to visit my Spanish family more. To speak with them more. I used to be embarrassed to visit them… Because I couldn’t really speak to them. But not anymore. Now, I CHOOSE to visit them to learn from them. Now, I feel like I belong.
Is There Something You’ve Been Wanting To Learn, But Something Has Been Holding You Back?
Maybe it’s a language too, or maybe you want to learn how to cook. Or maybe you’ve been waiting years to finally pick up that old guitar and learn how to play it.
Whatever your challenge is, I hope you can use this story as inspiration to push through those obstacles.
To use the power of Mindfulness to move forward in your learning and growth.
(Quite literally… NEXT WEEK! At least here in Canada… :P)
So, let’s get all you Educators out there motivated and ready to practice mindful moments this upcoming school year!
(Future you and your students will thank you for it!)
Are you ready…?
There just never seems to be enough of it.
Especially in a teacher’s day.
“How can I find the time?”
And understandably so…
Teachers have an extensive list of to-do’s!
An extensive, never-ending list…
HOW can we make time for Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is critical for students’ success, emotionalintelligence, and for building life skills.
Mindfulness is essential for teachers’ success, peaceofmind, and to preventburnout.
So, where do we find the time?!
I have the answer for you!
Here are 5 EFFORTLESS Ways to Add Mindfulness into Your Classroom TODAY:
Greet Students at the Door with Gratitude
Many teachers greet their students at the door each morning. Instead of just saying hi… add a fun “Question of the Day” element by asking kids “What are you grateful for?” before entering. Not only is it a fun way to practice mindful gratitude, you’ll also learn more about your students’ lives!
Take a Belly Breath In Between Classes
When switching from Math to Science, or English to Social, take a quick moment to pause for a breath. Have students place their hands on their bellies and take one big deep collective breath together. Remind them they are breathing out the previous activity to make room for the next!
First thing in the morning and at the end of the day, set a 30 second timer and have your students do a quick self check-in. Have students close their eyes (if comfortable) or gaze softly at a spot on the ground. Ask them to pay attention to any thoughts they are having, emotions that come up, or sensations in their body. Remind them not to place judgment on what comes up. Just notice it.
Tapping Before a Test
Before a test or any difficult assignment/activity, take 30-60 seconds to do a little tapping. Tapping is a wonderful way to decrease stress, it helps your students get into the right mindset before any nerve wracking activity. A quick minute is all you need. You can lead it or put on a tapping for kids youtube video! Try tapping in combination with positive affirmations too.
Warm Up for Gym with Yoga or Mindful Stretching
Gym is already part of the curriculum. And we already talk about the importance of stretching with our kids. Moving forward, add the mindful element to your stretching practice before beginning your gym class. Remind kids to stay focused and quiet. To pay attention to their bodies and the sensations from each stretch.
Well, There You Have It!
Some simple ways to sneak mindfulness into your day, everyday!
Time is on your side with these simple classroom mindful moments!
If you’re like me, you turn to a good book when you’re looking for answers.
We reach for the newest Self-Development, Spirituality, Finance or Business book on the shelf. Then, down it like a glass of ice-cold water on a hot day.
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Or the classic: Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill
I’ve read all of these books.
I learned something from each of them.
But let me tell you, none of these books were as impactful as the children’s picture books I’ve read…
Picture Books For Adults.
While picture books are written to entertain children, I am convinced that they are actually designed for adults.
The lessons to be learned in a good picture book are just as important for us to digest.
The thing is, adults get corrupted by life. We get lost along the way.
We have busy lives, stressful jobs, and needy families.
The magic of simplicity and childhood gets tossed aside.
We only have time to focus on the “grown up” stuff.
We forget to nourish our inner-child.
Picture Books Pack a Punch.
All it takes is a 5 minute picture book to get whacked in the face with a heart-warming lesson. It hits us right in the feels…
We learn about life. We learn about ourselves.
They make us think:
“Oh right… that IS important… I should value that more…I should make more time for that…”
They bring us back to our inner-child.
Our Brains Love Stories.
A human’s brain is wired to digest and break down stories.
We analyze them and search for the meaning behind them.
Kids’ brains do this. Adults’ brains do too.
Think about it…
The hieroglyphics in Ancient Egypt…
… Drawn-out stories!
The tales from Indigenous groups…
… More stories!
Classic moral-inducing fables…
…. All stories!
Stories Are Human Nature.
It’s how we make sense of the world.
So, the next time you’re reaching for the newest self-development or non-fiction book… I challenge you instead… to grab a picture book!
You never know what lessons you’ll find…
Or what lesson will find you!
Mindful Miss T’s Recommendation of the Day!
By Kobi Yamada
A BEAUTIFUL picture book (That I am convinced is written for adults too!) about the endless potential in us all.
I received this book as a birthday gift last week and it reminded me of my purpose and reason for being here on this Earth. It reminded me that everyone has their own purpose. That everyone is here for a reason. Whatever that reason may be. And it is up to us to share our purpose with those around us. That WE are capable of anything.
“How am I supposed to squeeze anything else into my day…?”
Things I hear in Education..
And I get it, Teachers have a lot on their overflowing plates.
They are more than just Teachers – they feed kids when they’re hungry and console them when they’re hurt.
Days become overwhelmed with to-do’s and then suddenly… its JUNE! And we’re cutting it close on deadlines.
But if we invest a little extra time, into the RIGHT things, it is possible to get some teaching time back!
Let’s take a quick peek into our classrooms…
Teacher’s at the front, attempting to get through her math lesson.
Attempting… because we know her lesson is not going according to plan.
We have Johnny in the front, raising his hand every 2 minutes to interject with a concern. Bianca is noisily tapping on her desk, frustrated because she just doesn’t get math. Will snapped his pencil and is this close to flipping his desk if he has to painstakingly sit through another minute of this class…
Classrooms are overrun with interruptions.
Sometimes, as Educators, we feel so short on time, that we push through our lessons and don’t necessarily deal with the underlying issue…
The stress, the frustrations and the anger…
And the truth is… Kids aren’t learning if they are not REGULATED.
To understand that, we need to know how our brains work.
When information enters our brain, either from something external (like a lesson) or from our internal emotions (fear, anger), this information travels from the bottom up.
The Brain Stem, into
Our Limbic System (Emotional brain), and then
The NeoCortex (Thinking brain)
But… when students are disregulated, then information cant travel past our brain stem, our primitive brain…
Think of it as electricity flowing in a circuit. If our regulation “switch” is turned off… no electricity is getting to the “light bulb” part of the brain.
The upper parts of their brains aren’t on.
They can’t use their emotional brain to relate to your lesson… And they most definitely can’t use their thinking brain!
So, what’s the point in stressfully pushing through a lesson if our students wont remember or relate to it…?
We Need Regulation!
And how do we do that?
By taking a little bit of time to mindfully teach regulation strategies!
When our kids become disregulated, but are PREPARED in handing it. We can redirect back to our lesson quicker.
The interruptions become minimal…
And we have a more effective lesson…
All because we invested a little bit of time turning our students brains on.
Here Are Some Easy-Peasy Strategies To Get You Started:
#1: Deep Belly Breathing (and more breathing exercises)
#2: Journalling or Creating Art
#3: Gong for a Walk (even better if it’s outdoors!)
Wishing you the best of luck! (I just know you can do it!)
Earth Day is around the corner! (Quite literally… TOMORROW!)
It is personally, one of my favourite days of the year!
Want to know why…?
Because no matter who you are, what background you come from, no matter your differences, we share one commonality…
We are ALL inhabitants of this planet we call home…
And it is up to us to care for and maintain this home!
We have the ability to impact the Earth, AND it’s future generations.
We can TEACH the young kids in our lives to love and respect the Earth.
We can teach them WHY its important to do so!
And so I ask:
How will you choose to teach them this?
There are SO many ways to influence our kids!
But, if you need a little help with some inspiration…
Check Out These Revolutionary Reads About Caring For Our Earth:
#1: Touch the Earth – Julian Lennon
The first few book recommendations are part of a series. ‘Touch the Earth’ is the first book of this 3-part series, written by John Lennon’s son, Julian Lennon! Julian takes kids (and big kids like myself) on an adventure of the Earth in the ‘White Feather Flier’ airplane. On these travels, he shows us how we can all make the Earth a better place.
Fun Fact: The name of The White Feather Flier is inspired by his father and his humanitarian efforts.
#2: Heal the Earth – Julian Lennon
In the second book of this series, Julian takes us on another adventure of the Earth in the ‘White Feather Flier’! This time, we learn the importance of caring for our worlds water supply and how to reverse some of the damage that humans have already done to the Earth.
He reminds us its not too late to make a difference!
#3: Love the Earth – Julian Lennon
In this final book of the series, Julian Lennon teaches us to use the power of love to protect the Earth and its inhabitants! He shows us that all parts of the Earth are connected and why it’s important to help other creatures that need it. The Earth is more than just a home for humans…
He reminds us that we can solve any problem if we just work together!
#3: The Earth Book – Todd Parr
This fun and simple book is filled with ways that we can take care of the Earth! Todd Parr is a funny and inspiring author! We can all learn a thing or two from him.
Fun Fact: This book is printed on recyclable materials and nontoxic soy inks!! He practices what he preaches!!
#5: The Lorax – Dr. Seuss
This book is a classic that never gets old… Even Dr. Seuss knew way back then of the importance of the Earth and it’s trees! A beautiful reminder of the tragedies that could happen if we neglect our Earth and cut down trees at an alarming rate!I resonate with the Lorax… As a being who also “speaks for the trees!”
I hope you enjoy the inspiration from these books!
I’ll leave you with one final thought…
Kids learn more from what we DO, rather than what we SAY…
The learning doesn’t stop after reading these books.
Please don’t think:
“Okay, I did my part. Now I’m done…”
It doesn’t work like this.
Go out in the world and actively do something to make it a better place for all of us to live.
Kids learn through involvement! And they learn from your actions!
So, I ask one more time…
How will YOU teach them how to care for the Earth?