Education, Mindfulness, Mindset, self-development

How To Learn A Language With Mindfulness In Mind!

I want to share something personal with you all… 

I Struggle With Regrets – Like Anyone.

There’s one thing in particular that has been weighing me down…

It’s that I can’t speak Spanish

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

My Grandpa – We called him Papi, my Mother and I as a baby!

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.

Dictatorship reigned…

It became illegal to show any support for the old government.

And my grandfather… 

Well… He was an activist who supported the old government. 

My Grandparents together back in Chile
My Grandmother – My Mami – in the middle with all of her daughters – My Tia’s – around her

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.

This picture was taken in Winnipeg, Manitoba when my Grandparents and their family first landed in Canada

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.

But…

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.

So…

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!

My Grandparents and my Parents at my Baptism when I was only a few months old!

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.

With love,

Cassandra (a.k.a Miss T)


Education, Kids, Mental health

I Have 3 Words for you: You do YOU

Miss T, here!

“You do YOU

This is the phrase I scribbled onto the school pavement at Sherwood Elementary each September.

Every year, on the first day of school, a handful of teachers and I would go out onto the school grounds, where we would greet our new students and write out inspirational messages before they arrived. ‘You do YOU’ became my ritual to signal the start of a new school year. 

Heck yeah, it’s a catchy phrase! But to me, it’s much more than that…

It was my wish for our whole school community. For them to embrace who they are, and all of the differences that make them, them.

And I meant it, truly. With my whole heart…

All I ever wanted for my kiddos was for them to be themselves- to allow their uniqueness and individuality to shine brightly! 

You do you – be your truest, most authentic self.

I think this message is extremely important for kids these days (also an important thing for us to keep in mind). It’s easy to get lost in a crowd and to conform to the actions of others around us, but that is not allowing us to be who we really are.

This is one of the biggest challenges I faced while working within the typical school system…

More often than not, school focuses too much on improving weaknesses instead of capitalizing on strengths. They try to squeeze each individual kid into the same exact box as the other kids around them – expecting them to all learn the same way, behave the same way, think the same way…

I’ve seen it happen. Even teachers who care and have wonderful intentions are not given the environment, curriculum, or resources they need in order to help their students see real success.

And you know, our kids see it as well. They may even be more observant than some of the adults around them…

…Because observation is how they are wired to learn. 

And they observe so well. They take what they see from the classroom and apply it even on their own – in the playground or during after school activities. 

And because we focus so much effort on improving weaknesses and lacking skills, kids begin to notice other kids are lacking certain skills and they create their own boxes that they believe their friends should fit into.

Kids conform, not just to our educational standards, but even to meet the standards of their peers. 

It’s been a tough thing to watch over the years. Children not being their authentic selves just to “fit in”…

And while it’s still important to be constantly improving and setting goals for ourselves and our kids, SOLELY FOCUSING ON WEAKNESSES does not allow individuality to thrive.

Instead, we expect all of our students to reach all the same benchmarks, as if they are all the same anyways. And come from the same backgrounds and share similar experiences.

This is just not the case. 

Every child (and adult- because lets be real here for a moment, we were all children once too) has a unique background. They come with different types of baggage from their different life experiences. And as a result, they’ve acquired different sets of strengths and weaknesses than the other children around them.

And so I wonder, who are we to decide that their individual life experiences aren’t good enough learning grounds for their future?

Instead of working hard to make up for what skills they lack, can we not embrace their strength and their interests in order to mold a successful child?

By not enhancing our kids’ strengths, we aren’t allowing them to reach their fullest unique potential. I believe it’s a wasted opportunity!

As an educator, we have good intentions. We get into this field to help kids succeed and because we care. But I believe that intention gets side swiped by all of the targets that educators are forced to complete by the end of each school year. Teachers have certain topics to teach and grades to mark and so these targets tend to be the priority.

It is by no means a teacher’s fault. They have a LOT on their plates. Many shoes to fill and many hats to wear. (I applaud all of you!)

This is when we need to take a look at our current system and ask:

“Is this working? How can we make it better?”

This school system is an old model of thinking that needs to be revisited. We are training our kids to be and do the same. We are training them the same way we’d train individuals to work in a factory during the industrial revolution. 

But the reality of the world has changed! And so, our school systems need to change.

We need to focus more on fostering the skills, experiences and interests of our children. Letting their unique identity guide the way to their own education.

We need to embrace their strengths, to foster curiosity and growth.

Imagine what the world would look like, and our school grounds would look like if we all embraced the “you do YOU” philosophy… Educators, parents and kids alike!

I see a beautifully different world, filled with so much uniqueness. A world where people don’t knock down others because of their differences, but instead, lift them up BECAUSE they’re different. A world where differences are strengths and are embraced.

Can you see it too?

I’ll end off with a quick reminder, in case no one has told you yet today…

You just keep on doing YOU!


With love & gratitude,

Miss T.