TDSB@UofT History Conference – May 10

By , April 9, 2018 2:43 pm

Grade 11 history students: if you’re interested in attending the conference, please check out the brochure and let Ms. G know by email. The cost is $5.00.

TDSB program_History__Conference_2018

Richard Turns Two

By , March 14, 2018 11:22 am

It was exactly one year ago yesterday that Richard Parker joined us. Here we are again at the cottage with snow blustering around.

How has Richard changed?

He is definitely calmer. He was a ball of energy a year ago. He absolutely could not sit still except when he was sleeping. In the first few months of his arrival, none of us not got a lot of sleep. His most high-energy time of day was night, unfortunately for us and for Bailey. Richard seemed to think that Bailey existed to torture. He ran him up and down the stairs, into corners. It was sincerely hard to deal with. Though Val dealt with most of it, being the night-owl that he is, I often got up screaming at Richard to leave my poor frail Bailey alone! To no avail.

Richard is still very sweet. When he first arrived, he would often cuddle up and snooze with us. Though he’s older and more mature now (ha ha), he still loves a good cuddle. Especially, it seems, in the morning when I’m trying to put on my makeup. Just as I’m about to place a little wand close to my eyes he expects to be picked up and hugged. Yes, I have poked myself in the eye a few times.

Richard is still food crazy but he can be controlled now. If left to his own devices he would still eat everyone else’s food. If we left bread out on the counter, he would guzzle it. Sometimes now, especially at the cottage where he is generally calmer, he will sit and watch the other cats eating without making a move. At home, he still has to go for “timeouts” in the powder room to allow them to finish their meals in peace.

Most of all he’s a good boy – funny and charming, crazy and endearing. He’s a big ball full of personality. We’re all used to him in a good way.

But no more. We are full! We also need to sleep at night and not to worry about disasters every time we hear a noise!

Here are some of his greatest moments. All photos courtesy of Val Dodge.

Dec. 2017: Chair as jungle gym. He also does somersaults on the banister.


Jan. 2018: In the recycling bin. If he’s not in it he’s trying to lick all the cans in it.


March 2018: In a coveted bag. We always cut the handles so he doesn’t strangle himself.


Watching a squirrel take a nap outside the loft window.


RP and Val – friends forever.


Feb. 2018: Getting into trouble on the ‘jungle gym’ AKA the clothes dryer at the cottage.


March 2018: We’re so proud he loves laundry so much.


He also loves stairs. We’re less proud of this since we live in a four-storey house with several long drops from open stairs!

My Tessa and Scott

By , March 14, 2018 10:36 am

Toronto Star


They seem to belong to the world now. That’s what the Olympics do.

Though they had a following around the world well before the 2018 Olympics, they are now of the world, of the pop culture world that cares more for their ‘relationship story’ than for their skating skills. Shipping? Fan fiction? Tabloid headlines? These are not the things for my Tessa and Scott.

As a longtime devotee of ice dancing I care most for Tessa and Scott’s skating skills, even as much as I love them as characters. To me, they move like no one else. And they move as one. I don’t think there’s any other ice dance team that skates as closely together. Again I say, as one. They never have to reach for each other. Other teams approach this, such as the French, though it’s not my preferred version of close – it’s cool, not sensual.

Perhaps it’s best to define closeness with its opposite – the Russians, Bobrova and Soloviev. They are always reaching, scratching. Though I actually like their “loss of sight” free dance (it took a while for me to be able to say that), I feel it is made worse by their somewhat chaotic skating skills.

Hubbell and Donohue approach the ‘simmering’ look of closeness. But to me it’s more of a look. Tessa and Scott don’t just look that way. It’s a skill honed over two decades to get that organic way of moving together. As a Canadian I feel that Weaver and Poje come very close to skating as one. For some reason the judges do not think on the same level. I cannot explain that, nor can any commentator I’ve ever heard.

I will see all of my favourite Canadian skaters (plus Javier Fernandez, apparently) at Stars on Ice in May. What I absolutely love most about it is seeing their passion for skating on their faces, up close and personal.






Ancient History Everywhere

By , February 18, 2018 6:48 pm

History is not dead. Consider these recent articles about new discoveries.


Toronto Star via AP

A new mapping technique is being used to find large structures hidden in the jungle where archaeologists didn’t know they existed in Guatemala. Perhaps up to 10 million people lived there.


Discovery of a new 3400 years old tomb in Egypt from the 18th dynasty (my personal favourite dynasty).

National Geographic, AP photo by NARIMAN EL-MOFTY

Indigenous Canada

A new map of Turtle Island – pre-contact Canada – is being constructed. What did it look like, map-wise, from an Indigenous perspective, without modern political boundaries and things imposed by the colonizers? This is a very exciting project!


Maybe Paleo was better?

Moving to a settled, farming way of life, the people of Catalhoyuk gave up something – their health. This way of life was difficult but it was unlikely they’d go back to their hunter-gatherer way, ironically, because they had built up their possessions.

Reconstruction of the interior of a home at Catalhoyuk from

Feb. 16, 2018 PD Day @Humberside

By , February 14, 2018 10:24 pm

Welcome! Check out photos and tweets from the SWSH pd day at #swshpd18

Here’s some shameless self-promotion – I’m the editor of OHASSTA’s blog, Rapport. Please visit and consider contributing. Email me if you’re interested (

Here is my PPT: Becoming_an_Inquiry_Teacher_Feb_2018

Here is one I did about a year and a half ago that’s much more procedural, less reflective: Becoming an Inquiry Teacher



Leaving 2017

By , December 30, 2017 12:20 pm

Good Things of 2017

Tessa and Scott: I love the Roxanne program. I love their energy and passion. Yes, Scott sometimes gets into it too much and he’s not perfect. I don’t care. They’re perfect together.

Euro Sport image from NHK Trophy in Japan.

Murdoch Mysteries: still going strong after 11 seasons. May I just say, please let George be happy for more than half a season!!!

Murdoch saved from jail once again.

Alias Grace: I sort of watched the mini series on CBC, mostly because it followed Murdoch Mysteries. I recently read the book by Margaret Atwood. Readers of my blog will know that I DO NOT usually read fiction. Though it is based on a true story, it is still fiction. I loved it! I don’t think Grace murdered Nancy Montgomery. After watching the mini series, I thought I recognized the actress who played Grace, but I couldn’t quite recall from where. It turns out she played Ruby Ogden, Julia’s sister, on Murdoch. Small world. Or, CBC world.

Cooper’s Bar Mitzvah: my nephew did a great job on his big day in October. His friends coming up and speaking about him was very sweet, especially for 13-year old boys. The weekend provided a wonderful opportunity to visit with family from out of town.

Hockey theme

Emilie, Shannon and Risa – first cousins from Vancouver.

Richard Parker, the Cat: phrases commonly heard around our house now that we have this energetic little devil – RIIIIIIIIICHARD (downward inflection)! What are you doing? How did you get THERE? Who brought the blanket into the kitchen? Get out of everyone else’s food!!! Leave Bailey alone!

Risa and Richard, taken by my cousin Emilie Irelan in October.

Here’s a rare scene: all four cats together – Val is feeding them treats.

Rapport: the blog I edit for OHASSTA. This is why I don’t have much time to blog here anymore. Doing the paper edition for the November conference made October extremely stressful, but I proved that I could do it.

Museums, especially the newly revamped Canadian History Hall in the Museum of History in Ottawa: OHASSTA conference attendees got a tour – I really loved the story of Nuvumiataq,  who was reconstructed from bones found in the Arctic (on Baffin Island). He is also in Canadian Geographic magazine’s Nov/Dec. issue which focuses on Indigenous peoples of Canada. The guide told us that when Inuit advisors from Arctic Bay saw the finished exhibit for the first time they thought he looked familiar!

The Table: vegan buffet restaurant in Ottawa – it is SO nice to have more than one choice on a buffet – choice of everything is pretty amazing.

From The Table’s Instagram account.

Skye: my vote for horse of the year at Sunnybrook Stables – calm, predictable, relatively gentleman-like (except when he is eating), capable of being ridden in a lovely frame, cloud-like canter. Rex would be second place for me – cute as a button (except when that gigantic head of his accidentally hits you – it hurts!).

Skye getting his Christmas carrots.

Huntsville area: our summer trip included a fun visit to the Screaming Heads, a rural property near Burk’s Falls full of huge concrete art pieces. The land belongs to artist Peter Camani, a former high school art teacher. This one says “put up your hand.” As a teacher, I can relate! I have to say, however, my favourite part of the visit was not the art (I don’t tend to “get” art); it was the walk through the sprawling meadow across the street. I have always wanted to walk through a meadow with its waist-high grass and jumping grasshoppers. It did not disappoint.

Squirrel in the fireplace: Anonymous creature got in sometime on Fri. Dec. 22 and was there to greet me when I arrived home from school. Our fireplace is two-sided so I got some pretty good views of him. He had to be lured out with peanut butter into one of the cat carriers. Mission accomplished. He is not staying. We had a brief moment of eye contact – I do love squirrels, just not in my home.

Val: my husband continues to be the most wonderful, supportive, caring man on earth. I love him so much and he deserves immense credit for keeping me sane. Here he is in the above-mentioned meadow at Screaming Heads.



Look kids: annotating

By , November 16, 2017 9:55 pm

I was at the Canadian Museum of History tonight in Ottawa. OHASSTA conference attendees got a special tour of the new Canadian History Hall. I loved it – so much amazing stuff.

I wanted to share this photo of a document that John A. Macdonald was doodling on during one of the constitutional conferences leading up to Confederation in 1867.

2017 Anniversaries

By , November 12, 2017 6:03 pm

2017 is an incredible year for historians with so many anniversaries to celebrate, commemorate, and ponder.

Other than Canada 150+, for me, the most significant are the Russian Revolution and Martin Luther’s writing of his 95 Theses.

My interest in Russian history goes back a long time. In university, I studied Russian history and Soviet politics. In fact, the Soviet Union broke up during my Soviet politics course in 1991. It was very dramatic for the students! I’m sure it was overwhelming for the people of the crumbling Soviet Union as well.  There is no longer a place in my grade 12 history course for the Russian Revolution, sadly. For those who are interested, check out the Economist‘s lead article on the continuities between Vladimir Putin and tsars of Russia’s past: A Tsar Is Born.

The Economist, Oct. 26, 2017


Though I am an atheist, I am very interested in the character of Martin Luther. He was a complicated and often cruel man. Five hundred years ago Luther caused a major rift in western European Christianity with his posting of his 95 Theses, or complaints, against the Roman Catholic Church. The rest is history, as they say. One of my favourite PBS history series is Empires. The multi-part story of Luther is very compelling: Empires – Martin Luther


PBS, Empires: Martin Luther


For other anniversaries, see this article in Newsweek (from an American perspective), or this one from Maclean’s (from more of a Canadian/international perspective).

Commemoration is one of the hottest topics in history today. How do we mark? How do we remember? Do we celebrate? Do we learn from the past? Judging from Canada’s experience during our 150th, these are all complex questions well worth studying.

Richard and the Giant Cat Wheel

By , November 2, 2017 10:17 pm

We have four cats. Yes, we are crazy. But Richard, our newest, is crazier. He eats dry wall. He terrorizes one of our other cats, Bailey. He is OCD and ADHD.

To use up his energy, we got him a giant cat wheel. Basically it’s a hamster wheel writ large.

See Richard run!

Return to Blogging and Skating

By , October 29, 2017 4:16 pm

It has been a long time since I have blogged here. That’s probably largely attributable to the fact that I spend so much time blogging on the OHASSTA blog, Rapport.

Blog is a bad verb. Let’s use write.

In my return, I shall write about one of my favourite fall-winter topics, figure skating.

Oy Patrick.

I love Patrick Chan’s skating – I don’t care if he jumps or not. However, I do care if he falls and doubles. In my completely outsider opinion, Patrick’s problems are in his head. Or else he trains poorly and isn’t a hard worker. I’d seriously doubt that. I doubt Marina Zoueva, his coach in Michigan, would allow that. Patrick could just skate around on his edges and he’d impress the hell out of me but I guess that’s not the sport at hand. Fourth place at Skate Canada International 2017 was a fall from grace. Tracy Wilson’s consternation on CTV said it all. Or maybe she was concerned about Brian Orser who had gall bladder surgery in Regina. Maybe Patrick’s pride has taken one too many hits in the face of all those young jumping beans who can’t skate.


Canada's Patrick Chan performs his free program in the men's competition at Skate Canada International in Regina on Saturday, October 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson ORG XMIT: PCH215


(National Post,

I have to say, that look on Patrick’s face reminds me of those times when only half my class hands in their assignment on the due date.

Love Tessa and Scott

They are without doubt the greatest ice dancers ever. Plain and simple. Technically, emotionally, musically! Most importantly, they have range. Though I enjoyed the technical prowess of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, I was constantly annoyed by the sameness of every routine they skated. The same drive and passion for excellence, but the same level nonetheless. As fans, we need more. As skaters, I’d assume they’d need more. Skating without Tessa and Scott will be empty again.


(Toronto Star,


there are dance teams waiting in the wings. And I don’t mean the French – though they are lovely, they don’t have the range. I mean Katelyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, newly returned to greatness with their reprise of “Je suis malade”. Also, I have really come to admire the American team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (another team that trains with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal). Deep edges, very smooth. Very musical. I always like what Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles come up with. Their skate to the music from Perry Mason is an interesting choice. Very understated. Ironically, one of the Perry Mason composers was jazz musician Lud Gluskin (don’t ask me how I know this). He didn’t compose the piece they skate to, but it’s a cute little connection I’ll take.


Meagan and Eric’s Big Return

As Meagan could be overheard saying in the “kiss and cry” area after their free skate, the quad is back. We all know they lost their way some time last year. They , Meagan in particular, looked so nervous leading up to that throw quadruple too loop. After that, back to the old fist-pumping confidence. I hope it will last them throughout the season. I haven’t watched much else in the pairs world. I still like Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch despite her frequent falls – I like the different style of choreography in their short program, “In the Air Tonight.” I also liked the choreography of Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot – very modern. But they just didn’t skate it. I do finally see what all the fuss about Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France is all about. Very promising team – very athletic, with modern choreography. LONG legs on both of them.



(Golden Skate,

Happy at last.


Looking forward to the next skates.



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