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.

Anne Frank in the Twitterverse

By , December 26, 2016 12:59 pm

Anne FrankBana

I had a strong and strange reaction to a seemingly good news story in the newspaper – it was about the young Syrian girl, Bana Alabed,  who live-tweeted from Aleppo and has been compared to Anne Frank.

Upfront I shall admit to two biases that must have influenced my puzzling reaction to the courageous story: I once took an entire course on Anne Frank; I don’t do twitter.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bana Alabed is an incredibly brave and impressive girl. And she’s only seven, making her story so compelling. What’s irking me is not her, not the story. It’s how the contexts of both her and Anne’s stories bear so many resemblances. Though Anne was a bit older than Bana is now, Anne and Bana share tremendous similarities: their penchant for self-expression, their standout characters, their brave voices in the face of oppression.

Some people may forget that Anne Frank was a migrant. Anne Frank and her family were refugees from Frankfurt, Germany. Her parents had fled to Holland in order to escape the potential threats lurking for Jews in Nazi Germany. Anne was less than four years old at the time, 1933. By 1942 the family had gone into hiding as the situation for Jews in Amsterdam got worse.   As we sadly know, Anne and most of her family, save for her father, were found and taken by the Germans in 1944, with Anne ultimately dying in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

I’m left with these questions…

If Anne were alive today in  a similar situation, let’s say in Aleppo, Syria, would she tweet? Would 140 characters be enough for her? (Anne edited her own diary – there are, in fact, multiple versions of the diary, the most well known being the one edited by her father, Otto.) Do tweeters edit their own voices? Is self-editing a good or bad thing?

If Anne were alive today, would her story be fact-checked, as Bana’s was? Bana was accused of not being in Aleppo. Fact-checking revealed she really was. Of course, fact-checking would have given Anne and her fellow hiders away.

Shortly after Bana’s tweet attracted hundreds of thousands of followers, she and her family were picked up by helicopter and flown to Turkey to meet with President Erdogan.  Would Anne and her family have been plucked from hiding and flown to safety? Where exactly would have been safe? It is not clear if Bana and her family are staying in Turkey.

In our fast-moving media and social media world, will Bana even be remembered in a few months? It seems that more people now get their 15 minutes (maybe even seconds) of fame these days. But oh how quickly we forget. Would Anne have come to be such an iconic figure if she were writing or tweeting today?

I wonder if this quote by Holocaust scholar Alvin Rosenfeld pertaining to Anne’s timeless presence still applies today:  “on the level of popular perceptions, a sense of the past seems to be shaped less on the basis of information contained in historical documents than through the projection of single images of ubiquitous and compelling power.”


I worry about the times we live in – everything seems so impermanent. The 2016 ship is sinking fast. Will we remember? What will follow? Most importantly, I wonder: have we learned anything?


Becoming an Inquiry Teacher

By , November 16, 2016 9:33 pm

Last year as I taught the new CHW3M and CHY4U courses I set for myself some personal challenges:

  1. try to implement the curriculum changes as fully as possible.
  2. try to bring inquiry into each lesson in some way.

I spent a lot of time with the curriculum document – it’s heavy but it’s all marked up now.

I can’t say that I was fully successful, but I’m proud of the efforts I did make. I took a lot of mental notes on what to change next time.

Here are some pointers I’ve developed to help me keep up the challenge and to communicate to other interested people what I am doing. Note: this PPT changes a lot as I add new things and develop my thinking.

The transition is hard but it’s worthwhile.

Becoming an Inquiry Teacher (Nov. 28 update)




By , November 6, 2016 9:45 pm

I recently had the pleasure of a short visit to Ottawa. Val joined me after the OHASSTA conference. Preparations are definitely on for Canada 150 – the 150th birthday of our country, in case you didn’t know. There’s construction everywhere – it feels like Toronto.

The weather was absolutely perfect for fall and there were still some red, orange and yellow leaves. The scenery around Parliament Hill is worth the trip.


parliament hill resized

courtesy of Val Dodge



You can tell who is holding the camera

We had an interesting visit to the War Museum.  The special exhibit Deadly Skies – Air War, 1914 – 1918  was really informative. I learned so much about all kinds of uses of air technology in the war: balloons, zeppelins, airplanes for battle, airplanes for observation. I looked at detailed reconnaissance maps made from aerial photos. I saw how even the Red Cross got into the spirit of battle by selling little pieces of destroyed German zeppelins to raise funds. Overall, though I found it fascinating, I was saddened by the overwhelming realization of how far war pushes technology. When the war started pilots were dropping bombs out of their planes by hand. By war’s end, there were multiple types of bombs and they were massive.

For my last year’s grade 12 students who inquired into “was World War I really a world war?”, I’d like to report that the air war actually began in the Far East when Japan bombed the  warships at port in the German territory of Tsingtao in China in 1914.


Wakamiya, Japanese ship carrying airplanes that attacked Tsingtao. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Tsingtao


A word about the architecture of the War Museum: it is meant to throw you off somewhat, but I felt it to the maximum. I had to leave after spending too much time in its bunker-like lower level where all the tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces are kept. While we were there they were setting up for a Habitat for Humanity gala. Quite the incongruous setting. They called it ‘Steel Toes and Stilettos.” Well, I’m sure they raised a lot of money for a good cause.

Auction from Habitat’s 2015 gala.


Hallway leading downwards to lower hall in War Museum.


Having spent a lot of time photographing the National Gallery from the outside on Saturday, we made it in on Sunday. It’s a beautiful building,  but once again, I found that I reacted negatively to all the concrete. On the plus side, we enjoyed the Toronto-centric exhibit Cutline: The Photography Archives of the Globe and Mail (that national newspaper). This photo shows the proposed extension of Eglinton Avenue east of Brentcliffe Road. My mom should appreciate this – her new condo complex is located approximately where the CPR line meets the extension. Of course this photo is pre-Inn on the Park (opened 1963) as well as pre-condo (2004). The two streets of houses north of the extension appear to be Thursfield Crescent and Rykert Crescent. The western portion of the extension was actually built in 1956, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eglinton_Avenue.


Don Mills and Eglinton

Photo courtesy of Val Dodge

Val keeps saying he’d like to return to Ottawa in the summer some day. I don’t think next July 1st, 2017 will be a good time – it’s apparently booked up already!



By , October 30, 2016 4:16 pm

Most people know I am not a great fan of Halloween. Not really sure why – maybe because I don’t like answering the doorbell.

I thought Val was on the same wavelength as me, save for the little batman costume that he has for Fletch and the ceramic pumpkin that he puts on the front porch. Both of these things he brought to the marriage. I brought two sets of dishes.

However, in preparation for his first Halloween (which was Friday Oct. 28) at his new company, he went overboard. It was an extravaganza weeks in the making. Yes, I yelled at him a lot during the preparation, most of which was spent in our garage. Yes, when I finally saw it I said he was “f….ing crazy.”

When he commits, he commits. But I love him for it. For a full explanation of his process, visit Val’s blog, valdodge.com


What I Did This Summer

By , September 9, 2016 6:11 pm

No, this is not my back-to-school English assignment. This is an update for those who actually read my blog and think I do something interesting. Really, such people exist? I did not have a super thrilling summer but I enjoyed it a lot and got relaxed and ready to come back to school.

Highlights (most photos are courtesy of Val Dodge):

  • a week in Cornwall working on E learning CHY4U with our amazing team.


  • a week on Bowen Island, BC with  Val. We got the deluxe tour from my cousin Emilie and her family. Bowen is a beautiful, artistic place full of nature, scenery and relaxation! And very friendly people. I even went on a boat, four times: twice on the ferry, twice on the water taxi to Granville Island in Vancouver. The public market there is still one of my favourite places in Canada. Emilie is the curator at The Gallery at Artisan Square where she puts together incredible exhibits. DSC01615


  • One concert per summer: two years ago, Tom Petty. Last year, Def Leppard. This year, Chilliwack at the Dock Dance on Bowen Island. It was a complete surprise that they were playing while we were there. Val and I both like Chilliwack, who are from Vancouver, not said town. No, I did not get tickets to The Tragically Hip. Wish I had been there in Toronto. Kingston would have been far too emotional.


  • Olympics: I wasn’t going to watch – I just wasn’t into Rio. However, I did give in and watch a lot, minus opening and closing ceremonies. Like everyone else in Canada, I OD’d on swimming, athletics and volleyball. CBC did a really professional job, I thought. NBC was excessively pro-American, as usual. I thought Elliotte Friedman, York Mills grad, did a great job at the swimming and diving.



  • Lowlight – a pinched nerve in my neck that kept me in pain for a lot of the summer.  Thanks to my pilates instructor, Neesa Kenemy at Pilates Process on Danforth, for giving me custom rehab. Thanks to my chiropractor, Dr. Tim Marshall, and massage therapist, Sheila Sotto, at Bayview Chiropractic. These people are amazing at what they do.


  • Because my neck was in such good hands I was able to ride more than usual this summer. Thanks to Cyncee and Anne at Sunnybrook Stables.  My wonderful riding partner, Julie C., is a joy.





Reading Highlights

It was a mixed bag of books this summer. For school I read Smart and Scattered Teens, a guide to developing executive skills in teenagers (thanks to my amazing boss, Jenessa Dworet) , and Grit, a self-help book (which I don’t usually enjoy) on passion and perseverance (thanks to VP Mira Wong). I think I’m pretty gritty and organized – I read them for the kids.

For myself, I stuck to history.

I tend to enjoy single subject histories, such as Salt, so I was intrigued by Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton when I saw it on the New York Times Book Review’s list of 10 best non-fiction books of 2015 last Christmas. It didn’t disappoint. Incredibly detailed and broad in scope, the very thorough book traces the worldwide influences of this seemingly innocuous plant. It’s a story that meshes with slavery and imperialism so it’s not a happy one. But when do I ever read happy books?

Mary’s Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome was also on the above-mentioned top ten list. She is a highly entertaining writer, even on a topic that could be seen as boring. It’s quite a feat for anyone endeavouring to write a manageable overview of Roman history. While she does leave a lot out, she grabs the reader’s interest with humourous stories that capture the mood of an era so that she doesn’t have to spill all the plodding (or, in Rome’s case, plotting) details. With a focus on a few characters, such as Tiberius Gracchus, she manages to paint a feeling of a time.  I think my interpretations of people such as Julius Caesar and Augustus have, in the past, been more generous than hers. Now I’m doing a bit of re-thinking. Too bad I won’t be teaching World History to 1500 this year.


  • Sudoku: I will admit that I am an addict. I spent a lot more time than I should have this summer playing. I told Val that if I ever beg him to put Sudoku on my laptop he should ignore me.


Illustration by Mark Stamaty. Click image to expand. (Slate)


Last Day of School and Canada Day

By , July 3, 2016 6:23 pm

Human-made March Break

By , March 16, 2016 9:41 am

I usually take a few pictures of whatever looks pseudo-alive on our visit to the cottage at March Break. This year I went in the opposite direction, searching out macro snapshots of manufactured items. See if you can identify the following:

reflectors, fence measurements, road safety sign, fence label, pattern on telephone box, wire coil, fence hinge, community mailboxes.

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