Wiesenthal Education Weekly - July 16, 2020

July 16, 2020

Education Newsletter

Wiesenthal Education Weekly

For Educators, Parents & Students

July 16, 2020

Calling all Educators!

FSWC’s teacher equity workshop is targeted at educators who are seeking to learn more about how to incorporate anti-oppressive content and speak about human rights issues within their classrooms to promote equity. By looking at historical events, this workshop provides educators with an understanding of how the past has shaped the present and sets the groundwork for future actions.

With an emphasis on teaching sensitive subjects and Holocaust education, this workshop provides educators with the tools to appropriately teach topics that may be difficult for students. By emphasizing the importance of historical inquiry and building safe classroom environments, this workshop considers the need for educators to encourage students to think about the past to better help them understand the present and make positive changes in their futures. This workshop is best suited for educators teaching grade 3 and above.

Email education@fswc.ca to register




Exploring Canada’s History – From Home

Summer vacation: A time for sun, fun and camp. While some day camps have since re-opened, for many of Canada’s kids, this is a summer without many expected traditions. Fortunately, museums, art galleries and heritage sites have stepped up their game. Virtually. The first recommended stop on any virtual museum tour should be the Virtual Museum of Canada . The site describes itself as “the largest digital source of stories and experiences shared by Canada's museums and heritage organizations.” Even at a quick glance, the website offers interesting exhibits and stories that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

One of the first virtual exhibits I came across was Building New Lives: Stories of Holocaust survivors’ immigration to Canada courtesy of the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The exhibit mixes personal testimonies with academic analysis and historical facts to trace the stories of Holocaust survivors that were able to come to Canada during the Second World War and in the immediate post-war period.

Another interesting option, Radical Reform — Education and Society 1845–1945, created by the Toronto District School Board which explores the century-long journey of the creation from birth to rise of a radical new idea: a public education system. Or perhaps, Northern People, Northern Knowledge, from the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which highlights the First Canadian Arctic Expedition. Leaving Nome, Alaska, in the summer of 1913, these Canadian explorers mapped most of Arctic Canada. Aided by the Inuit, the scientists travelled by dogsled, creating and correcting maps of the Canadian Arctic.

There are countless more exhibits, from small heritage houses in rural British Columbia to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Many offer supplementary teacher resources or lesson plan ideas to introduce into classrooms. Another great online resource is FSWC’S Hellin Learning Centre. These short, comprehensive pieces were written by academics with advanced degrees in their fields and an intimate knowledge of teaching sensitive subjects. Even if your travel plans for 2020 were postponed, there is plenty to see and learn, from the comfort of your own home.

4 Questions With..

Lauren Ptasznik | YRDSB Teacher

Hi! My name is Lauren and I am a teacher in the York Region District School Board. I have been a classroom teacher since 2015 but have worked in schools in many different capacities since I graduated from Western University in 2011. Going into university I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I went into Media Information and Technoculture, something I was interested in at the time. I realized I did not want to go into the field of media or technology so I took a year off after university to reflect on what I wanted to do. During my summers as a kid, teenager an adult I went to and worked at Camp Northland. Being a staff member there made me realize that I enjoyed working with kids so I became a teacher! Using technology and media is a huge aspect of how I keep my students engaged. I use @rainbowbrunette as a way to share my interests with others, as well as teach my viewers in different areas from cooking, to baking, to shopping, to education. I also hope to use this platform as a way to share different tools teachers or educators can use with their students. It has been hard to share these types of things in the more recent times but I hope to be back in the classroom in September collaborating both online and in school.

1.     How has your Jewish upbringing influenced your teaching and learning?

Growing up in a Jewish household taught me the importance of family and traditions. We are not religious but observe the high holidays and enjoy as many holiday and Shabbat meals as we can as a family. I enjoy spending time with my immediate and extended family whenever I can and I learn so much from them. When you become a teacher your students become your family. You gain 20-30 new children and it is your job to create a safe, supportive and fun environment just like a parent would do at home. Just like I learn from my family, I also learn from my students as much as they learn from me. We are like one big family for the year and I do my best to make them feel safe and supported just like my family does for me at home. There are certain traditions that I do as a teacher in school. For example I make a welcome package each year to help my students start off the beginning of school with some supplies they will need amd a positive message to show that they can trust me to be there for them, whenever they need. Just as I follow traditions with my family, I do the same with my students. It is great because if students know me, they look forward to being in my class in the future. It is a great way to show them that I care and it adds some fun to the school year. Some students ask about certain things I do during the year, months in advance because they are excited about it.

2.     How has COVID-19 shaped your teaching pedagogy?

Teaching during COVID-19 taught me to be more available for my students, at all hours of the day. I used Google Classroom as my online tool to teach my students. Lucky for me, we had been using it all year so my students were very versed on how to navigate the site and how to complete and submit their work. The biggest difference for me was that it felt like students had access to me 24/7. At the click of a button they could ask me questions and I would get an e-mail right to my computer and phone. Students could do their work at any time of the day so I sometimes had work being handed in at 11 pm on a Friday and questions being asked late in the evenings. My students know I like to go to sleep early, earlier than most of them, so they knew if I didn’t answer, I was probably already in bed. This would not usually happen during a regular school day, a student would just wait to ask me in the morning. At the beginning of Distance Learning I laid out office hours so students knew exactly what time I would be on. But when questions came at different times, I did my best to answer them even at hours where 11 year olds should be sleeping. This was the biggest difference for me and I adapted so I could help support my students.

3.     What advice would you give to educators about teaching during these difficult times?

Some days are hard, some are easy. There will be days where your students understand concepts right away and days where they have no idea what you are talking about. If teaching continues online there will be times where you post everything perfectly and students start their work with no problems, or there will be times where a student messages you to let you know that you accidentally put up the answers to the work (true story). If you are doing your best then that is good enough! Teaching from home can be stressful. People have kids to worry about, spouses to worry about, the cooking, the cleaning, and walking the dog. All this and teaching is happening simultaneously. JUST DO YOUR BEST. Make a schedule to help balance what needs to be done. Whether teachers are back in the classroom or learning online in September, all we can do is our best. Our mental health is just as important as our students. If you can’t support yourself, it will be hard to support others so just do what you can to make it all work and know that it is good enough.

4.     Why did you decide to start @rainbowbrunette? What are your future goals for the blog?

I started @rainbowbrunette as a way to share what I am interested in. Whether it be fashion, food, travel, lifestyle or education. As I mentioned above, I hope to use my blog more to share different teaching tools and resources with educators and students. Since I was home with none of my manipulatives and most of my resources are still at school it has been hard to share these. But I hope to do so in September when school starts again, whether it is online or in the classroom. I learn so much from other educators online and in school, it would be great to share some of my discoveries and help others.


A Brief History of Canada’s National Holocaust Monument

In the years after the end of the Second World War, nations attempted to find ways to adequately commemorate and memorialize the unprecedented tragedies of the previous decade. For victims, for liberators, and for perpetrators alike, there was a push to publicly display the memories and the emotions associated not only with the battlefields, but of the Holocaust as well. This tradition of creating so-called “memoryscapes” had become an accepted form of remembrance in the years after the First World War, when countries around the world grappled to commemorate what, at the time, had been the largest loss of human life in a global conflict.

Great Britain dedicated a Holocaust memorial garden in London’s Hyde Park in 1983; the United States established the world-renowned USHMM (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) in 1993; and France dedicated a memorial for the Shoah specifically in 2005—there had been criticism that the 1962 memorial for victims of deportations did not specifically allude to the Holocaust itself. After decades of planning, re-planning, arguments, and rounds of voting, Germany’s national monument to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust was inaugurated in Berlin in 2005. Later monuments dedicated to victims of the Roma and Sinti genocide, homosexual purges, and the T4 program were erected in the following decade.

Canada’s monument was officially opened on September 27, 2017, across from the Canadian National War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, an American architect whose parents were Holocaust survivors, the monument uses asymmetrical concrete walls to create the semblance to a Star of David when viewed from above. Well-known University of Toronto professor and renowned Holocaust historian Doris Bergen was also on the monument design team.

The push to build this site originally came from a controversy put forth in 2007 by 18-year-old undergraduate Laura Grosman, who was a student in the political administration program at the University of Ottawa. She was shocked that Canada was the only Allied nation that did not have a monument or museum dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust and spent the next year lobbying for government officials to draft and propose legislation to build this site of commemoration. Until this point, the only comparable monument of national significance was the Wheel of Conscience at Pier 21 in Halifax. Erected in 2011, this memorial was built to commemorate the failure of Canadians to receive the infamous refugee ship, the SS St. Louis in 1939.

A decade later after Grosman’s initial proposal, the monument was finally unveiled, with the official title, “Landscape of Loss, Memory, and Survival.” However, within days of the official debut, media, donors, and critics began taking note of one particular misstep: onlookers had noticed that the writers of the plaque text had forgotten to include any mention of Jewish victims, and instead had broadly mentioned "millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust." The panel was removed after only a week, and was later re-released with the corrected version.

In January 2020, Ottawa’s hate crime unit was called to the monument after local residents noticed that the concrete slabs had been defaced. It was later reported that the monument had been egged. To this date, no one had been publicly indicted in relation to this event.

More information can be found here and here

Schindler's List from an Educator's Perspective

As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and an academic of the subject, I have never been inclined to watch movies about the Holocaust. Over the years, I have felt more of a connection to the stories that have been passed down through my family, the literature that I have read, the museums that I have visited, and the artifacts that I have held. Nonetheless, COVID-19 and social isolation has encouraged me to watch Holocaust films. As an educator, I recognize that in many cases, the first exposure that a person may have to the Holocaust is through film. Perhaps people are not as inclined to do primary and secondary academic research or may not have the opportunity to meet a survivor. This week, I watched Schindler’s List (1993). The film follows the story of Oskar Schindler (portrayed by Liam Neeson) who was an industrialist and member of the Nazi Party.

Throughout the film, Schindler’s perceptions and attitudes towards Jewish people and the systematic murder of them changes significantly. After Polish Jews were forced into Kraków Ghetto, Schindler arrives in the city hoping to expand his business and build his fortune. To help run the business, Schindler enlists Izhak Stern (portrayed by Ben Kingsley) to oversee his financials and connect him to the Jewish business community. It is at this point that I must admit that it was shocking for me to see Ben Kingsley play the role of Stern, before he played the role of Adolf Eichmann in Netflix’s Operation Finale (2018). As I saw Operation Finale first, this took some getting used to on my part. Nonetheless, the film follows the journey of Schindler as he moves from his objectives of employing Jewish people within his factories for financial gain to saving as many Jewish people as possible from being murdered.

As the Nazis began to lose the war, Schindler found himself at a standstill as the extermination of Jewish people becomes more imminent for the SS. Schindler bribes high ranking SS officers to oversee the transportation of his workers to Brünnlitz to continue work there. At one point in the film, Schindler sits with high-ranking SS officer Julian Scherner (portrayed by Andrzej Seweryn), who says “that’s not just good old-fashioned Jew-hating talk. It’s policy now.” This quotation resonated with me because it clearly articulates the systematic nature of the Holocaust emphasizes the laws that were put into place to exterminate all Jewish people of Europe. It is important to note that the Holocaust was not just the actions of a few people who were antisemitic, but rather it was policy put into place by the government.

The film ends with the announcement from the White House that the Germans have unconditionally surrendered, and the war will end at midnight. Schindler, along with the 1200 Jewish people that he saved, observe three minutes of silence for the Jewish people who have been murdered at the hands of the Nazis. He bids farewells to his workers and begins to flee from the advancing Red Army, knowing that he would likely be persecuted for his employment of slave labour during the war. As is driven away, Schindler expresses his guilt for not saving more people.

The epilogue reveals that Schindler’s marriage and business ventures failed after the war. In 1993, he was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. The film ends with many of the people that Schindler had saved, their descendants, or actors in the film honouring his grave in Israel.

As an academic and educator, I do not watch historical films to ensure or monitor historical accuracy. I understand that films must be adapted to tell a story, but also have cinematic features that are appropriate for audiences and are captivating in nature. I will always encourage people who are seeking to learn about history to read a book by a reputable author, pick up a memoir, or watch a documentary. Then, they can watch dramatic adaptations of historical events with a critical lens. Nonetheless, I believe that Schindler’s list, although difficult to watch at times, is extremely relevant, emotionally captivating, and realistic portrayal of the story of Oskar Schindler.

What Our Education Team is Reading & Watching

FSWC's Education Team is constantly working to broaden their collective knowledge. Here's what we've recently been reading and watching:


Stay in Touch

Although FSWC's Education Team is practicing social distancing for the health and safety of themselves and those around them, you can reach us remotely at any time at education@fswc.ca

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