U of T – TDSB – History Conference

By , April 13, 2017 9:14 am

Here is the brochure which lists all the workshops. You’ll need to choose your top 2 for each session. 


Please return permission forms to Ms. G ASAP = first come, first served (I can take 8 people). Bring your $5.00 as well.


Ms. G


An Open Letter to My Students and Their Parents

By , April 9, 2017 2:21 pm

Years ago, in the span of two weeks, my grade 11 students would take notes for a 5-paragraph essay on Egypt or Mesopotamia and produce the actual essay, including a draft. These days, time has slowed to a crawl and I have tried to adapt; I’ve changed the essay to a paragraph, and scaffolded it to a major degree, with the opportunity for feedback on an outline via comments on google docs.

Sadly, despite these adaptations, I have received a surprisingly low number of outlines. Now that the “deadline” has passed, I think I have received  16 out of 27.

What has happened? Or more accurately, I think, where has students’ time gone?

In the past, students didn’t spend 4-5 hours per day on social media.

If we think these phones aren’t harming students’ productivity, we are deluding ourselves. If we think these phones aren’t harming students’ ability to write, we are lying to ourselves.

I am seriously concerned about some students’ ability to be productive on any job, including paid work.

Students need to take responsibility for their own learning, which is precisely why I have increased my use of “assessment as and for learning”, wherein I give feedback but not necessarily marks as practice for upcoming assignments (as per the requirements of the Ontario curriculum). This Egypt or Mesopotamia paragraph will eventually be the first body paragraph in the students’ culminating essay at the end of the semester. Why wouldn’t students jump at the opportunity to get it done early and receive feedback from the teacher? The Ontario curriculum is designed for students to practice their skills. I am providing that opportunity. The fact that some students don’t want to take it really concerns me. That’s why I say they have to take responsibility. I’ve created the conditions in which they have the opportunity. They just have to do it.

Ultimately, it may be that paragraphs and essays aren’t the most engaging types of assessments. I get that. But I feel that after my nearly 20 years of teaching I have a position from which to judge what they need to work on most. I’m really trying to get my students to think, first and foremost. But I also believe that expressing themselves, both in terms of detailed evidence and strong arguments, in a formal written manner, is crucial for their future.

It seems to me that the culture we live in does not promote responsibility. I will keep trying to go against this current.






The Skating Season Is Over – Sigh

By , April 1, 2017 8:13 pm

As usual I’ve watched a lot of figure skating this season. Most happily I have watched Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in every competition. That all wrapped up today at the World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

TV+SM_Worlds_2017 (Global News)

While it wasn’t their best free dance, it was a great feather in their cap for Tessa and Scott to win at Worlds  in the first year of their comeback. I cannot be happier that they have decided to return. CBC ran an interesting feature on them in which they said that in the past they had created some programs they felt were never finished. I hope they weren’t referring to “Carmen”, one of my favourites. This year’s program is an absolute masterpiece of understated elegance. Even nicer, they have such a contrast between their uptempo Prince short dance and their subdued, emotional free dance.

While ice dance is a scoring mystery, I am very confident in my own preferences. In Tessa and Scott’s absence I had transferred my loyalty to Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, perennial oh-so-close finishers. Much was made this year of their coaching and training locale changes. I had not been buying in until the free dance today. I thought she was much more understated than in the past (which I prefer). They opted not to go over the top, a good decision in that they finished fourth. Again, oh so close, but much better than last year. Apart from Tessa and Scott’s free dance, my favourite program of the year is Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles’ exquisitely sharp tango.  Paul can cool it with the moustache antics – their skating is plenty fine.

I had quite a few Patrick Chan moments as well this season, from the high of clean skating at Canadians to the low of flailing at Grand Prix finals. I thought his long program at World’s, while not clean, was a good culmination to a rough season. At least he ended on a relatively high note: great quad salchow, no stupid doubling of jumps, beautiful programs as usual. I’m very happy he finally has some quality coaching and some recognition that his mental game is not strong enough.

I have said to Val many times that it’s hard to be a Patrick Chan fan. At Canadian nationals this year after his fantastic long program I actually cried.

PC_SP_Worlds2017 (Toronto Star)

I have to give a shout out to Javier Fernandez (who I love as much for his skating as for his personality) for an incredible short program and to Yuzuru Hanyu (who I normally do not love) for a perfectly controlled free program when it really mattered. And of course, to Brian Orser for having three pupils in the medals and Marie France Dubreil and Patrice Lauzon for their amazing coaching of the gold and silver dance teams! Heartbreak for their American team who were sitting in third but sadly screwed up what was a mesmerizing program.

It was most interesting to see Tracy Wilson on the sidelines and in the kiss and cry area with her students. I used to really like her as a commentator for the insights she’d share. I’m kind of done with her now as I tend to disagree with her assessments. It’s nicer to see her coaching and sharing her technical  knowledge and artistic intuitiveness.

I look forward to seeing most of our amazing Canadian skaters at Stars on Ice in May.



Richard’s First Few Weeks

By , April 1, 2017 6:44 pm

Richard Parker has been doing well so far in his new life. Sure, he gets a lot of corrections – “Richard, get out of there; Richard, stop that; Richard, calm down; Richard, don’t eat that!” But he’s very easy going. He has gained a lot of weight already, so much so that he’s not a super skinny guy anymore.

Yesterday he had surgery to “fix” him. We were hoping it would calm him down somewhat. When he came back from the vet last night, he was insanely hungry and tried to eat and lick everything. Today he’s taking it easier and napping a lot.


Bailey also had surgery yesterday, his to remove most of his horribly rotten teeth. He is not quite feeling better yet so no pictures.



Kitties Galore – That’s Number Four

By , March 19, 2017 7:19 pm

Oops, we got another cat. Well, really he adopted us. We found him wandering around at our cottage as the weather was getting colder and colder. Need I say more? Just look at him, scratching to get in. We did check with locals if they knew him. We did take him to the local vet to check for a micro-chip. He was a complete mystery.


So let me introduce Richard Parker, our newest addition. Fletch’s “mini-me.”    double_vision4


Sweet and cuddly. Obsessive eater. I have never seen anything like his ability to vacuum up food. Even Val, the cat whisperer, has trouble keeping him contained during feeding time – he’s in everyone else’s food in a flash.


He’s only about one year old, so he has a lot of energy, followed by a lot of napping.     Richard_Parker


We already love him very much.





Ms. G went out 3 times

By , March 8, 2017 9:22 pm

Many of you may know I rarely leave my house, other than to go to work, pilates, riding, the cottage, or guitar. Oh yes, and my mom’s condo. I’m a bit of a home body.

Well, I went out three times this week. Do I look extra tired? Don’t answer that.

Last Saturday, at MY urging, Val and I went out to see a movie: Hidden Figures. Very good movie – worst seats in the house – front row. I kept asking Val, “is that Kevin Costner?”

Last Sunday, I hosted a brunch for Val’s birthday at The Hothouse. There was a lot of bacon. Lindsay and I had a lot of bread, good bread, mind you.

Last night, my sister-in-law Felicity took Val and I out for a mystery event. It turned out to be a taping of the CBC Radio show The Debaters. It was hilarious. We laughed for three hours. And I finally made it inside the Danforth Music Hall. But there was vegan bashing. Mean, yet funny, people.

Debaters Stage (CBC)

There you go. My outings for the year are done.

Now on with the marking.


Oscars of the Ancient World? Or, is Ms. G Ancient When It Comes to Movies?

By , February 26, 2017 7:15 pm

I’m sitting here “watching” the lead-up to the Oscars with my sister-in-law Felicity who absolutely ADORES the whole thing. I’m not into it – haven’t seen a movie for a long time – however, I thought it’d be nice to share this family moment. And I got some vegan ice cream.


Were there ancient equivalents to the Oscars? Maybe not, but here are a few relevant links.

Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that in ancient Greece awards for acting included a goat, not a little golden statue. The Getty Museum blog also revealed the origin of the word trophy  – worth reading. In case you don’t know, The Getty Museum is located in Los Angeles and the foundation is dedicated to preservation of art.

While watching the Oscars (or any other award show – or show – for that matter) you might munch on popcorn. NPR’s The Salt traces the history of this fibrous food from its origins in Mesoamerica. In case you don’t know, NPR is National Public Radio, a very erudite radio network. Also in case you don’t know, I can’t eat popcorn. Don’t talk to me about that!

Here are Felicity’s picks:

Best Picture: Moonlight – she says, “broke her heart. Had to control vocal sob in theatre at the end.”

Best Actor: Denzel Washington for Fences. “Because Casey Affleck doesn’t deserve the award unless people acknowledge his numerous sexual assault allegations.” Here’s her historical perspective: “white men continue to get away with everything.”

Best Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land. Two las, to be clear. She is “magical in the movie and her song, ‘Audition,’ is so moving.”

Best Director: “it just can’t be Mel Gibson.” I have to agree with her on that even though I haven’t seen one single film nominated.


Just an aside, I did recognize one of the interviewees on the tv: Lin Manuel Miranda, musical genius from Hamilton.

I will say that I do wish to see Hidden Figures some time soon, at least within the next year.







Welcome, Students

By , January 31, 2017 10:14 pm

Hello everyone, welcome to my class, whether you’re in CHW3M or CHY4U, a new student, or familiar with my ways. I’m really looking forward to a good semester: Lots of thinking and exploring. Normally, I’d have students write a profile of themselves. I’m dispensing with that in favour of something new. We’ll see how it goes – it’s okay to experiment.


New Intro to You

I’d like you to go through my blog and find something you can identify with (search the lists of recent posts and archives on the right, or just keep scrolling down and hitting ‘older’) for a post that you like, a book review of a book that sounds good, a pic of a class, whatever. Just send me a comment on that post and tell me why you like it, or what it makes you think about, or what you’re hoping for in this class. I’ll leave it open ended. Just make sure it’s more than a couple of sentences – let’s put some thought into this, please.

Or, If You Don’t Like That Idea

If that’s not to your taste, write me a short email telling me which historical time period you think you would have liked to live in. My email is risa@cabal.org or risa.gluskin@tdsb.on.ca

My answer is below.


Ms. G: My Time 

Believe it or not, I have given a great deal of thought to this question: if I had to live in another time period, which would it be? The catch is that I’d have to be of the time period, I couldn’t be presentist about it and say that I wouldn’t have liked to live in Tudor England because the technology was so low. I wouldn’t have known about Netflix and email at that time. So I couldn’t have missed it.

Though the technology would be different, another catch is that my personality would be similar to the way it is now. I’m not a very social person, I think a lot, I am rather moderate with the occasional radical thought. These things matter when I’m thinking about time periods. I would have been okay in the first phase of the French Revolution, expectant with change! However, in the Terror I wouldn’t have liked the extremism and would definitely have feared the guillotine.

Though I absolutely love studying ancient Egypt, I’m not sure I would have made it in that civilization; I’m an atheist and wouldn’t have had the personality for joining into the state religion. However, if I were an ordinary farmer I might have been just fine doing my thing and living my relatively good life along the banks of the Nile, especially as a woman.

I don’t think I’d have made a good Roman or Greek either. As a woman in ancient Greece, I probably would have had some complaints about how much I contributed to my society but how little I was valued for it.  The Roman blood lust just wouldn’t have been acceptable to me. I’d have winced at gladiator shows.

A very appealing possibility is living in Florence or Venice during the Renaissance: so much creative license and artistic expression. Still a lot of religion though.

I guess I have to come to some kind of final decision here. Being who I am, I probably would have done best in the 1960s somewhere like Berkeley or San Francisco. It was a time of change and freedom. Young people were standing up for their beliefs, challenging society to become more progressive. Though I wouldn’t have liked the drug scene, and I for sure would have been VERY anti-war (Vietnam), I would have felt like I belonged in the forward motion of history.


Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city will end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

“Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city will end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)” from Library, University of California, Berkeley, Media Resources Centre, 2012,

http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet.html (Jan. 31, 2017)


Think Happy Thoughts…For the Next Four Years

By , January 20, 2017 10:32 pm

When I was young my mom told me to think of something happy when I felt sad or scared. Every since then my go-to smile-inducing thought has been … squirrels.

The next four years are going to be painful. I’m going to think of a lot of squirrels.

toronto squirrel

Blog TO

Watch this video from Toronto Wildlife Centre to bring a smile to your face.


By , January 8, 2017 5:45 pm

Sugar is a horse that I sometimes ride at Sunnybrook Stables. This post is not dedicated to her. It is about something that I associate with much more frequently than my once-a-week ride.


Sugar is a replacement swear-word that I sometimes remember to use when in the company of young, supposedly innocent ears. Again, it’s not the subject of this post, though I could benefit from a swear-cleanse.

Sugar is not the affectionate term I use to refer to my incredible husband. He’s ‘honey.’ As a vegan I am not supposed to consume honey, so it’s an odd choice. But it sticks, no pun intended.

Sugar is a word in the title of many books I’ve read on slavery and the slave trade. But it’s not my focus here.


No, what sugar really adds up to is my enemy.

To save myself, I tried to get off sugar last year, replacing my breakfast cereal (which was, in fact, rather low in sugar comparatively at 2 grams per serving) with plain oatmeal (the really fibrous kind) that I’d eat with half a banana. That didn’t last more than a few months.

Following that failed attempt I found myself stuck on an even more sugary cereal, oatmeal squares, at 7 grams of sugar per serving. It is recommended that we don’t eat anything over 5 grams of sugar per serving.


Apparently I did not conduct my sugar reduction in the right way. I made myself crave it even more.

This is all very weird coming from a vegan who does not eat dessert. Well, I do admit to a liking for fake ice cream – that’s soy and coconut to you unaccustomed non-vegans. I am able to contain that craving by only having it on special occasions. Note to my mom: stop buying it, please. Thursdays aren’t that special.

So, how is a sugar demon to be slayed?

After this current box of oatmeal squares is finished, I swear I’ll stop.

Tune in later to see if sugar wins.

Post-sugar script: There’s an app for it: See this Guardian article.

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