The Graduate Manifesto of George Cassutto

Change is the only Constant

Harmony IntermediateWhen the personal life of a teacher is transformed by broad-sweeping life change, it has a direct impact on his or her teaching style and ability to commit to the profession and the students. It was one of the greatest challenges of my life to walk into a 7th grade US History classroom and teach with the same enthusiasm and animation knowing my life was falling apart around me at home. Once I had secured a "new normal" economically and in respect to my family (much the same way our nation had to become acclimated to the "new normal" after 9/11), I was able to bring a new joy and commitment to the classroom. In the meantime, I had made another change: I became Social Studies department chair at Harmony Intermediate School, a new school being built to accommodate the high level of growth in western Loudoun County. This change allowed me to be home in time to monitor my still under-aged children while being able to bring all my skills and talents to the Social Studies classroom. I had to mourn the loss of teachings on the high school level, but I find the malleability and freshness of eighth graders rewarding. One day, when the county builds a high school that is situated in a place that lets me tend to the needs of my own children while performing additional duties at the high school level, I may consider returning to the the high school classroom in US History (11th grade) or US Government (12th grade)

The staff at Harmony is top-notch. We operate in teams, and the English, Special Education, and Science teachers who work with me on my team have helped developed a close-knit unit where we enjoy each others' company and respect each other as professionals. The academic team works on the block schedule, so we meet physically every other day in order to discuss student progress, coordinate interdisciplinary lessons and activities, and to align our schedules for extra-curricular and team activities outside the classroom. We have developed into a tightly knit unit as we have developed our own traditions and become intimately familiar with each other's personalities and teaching styles. Students at the Air & Space Museum

Students at the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum

Our team schedules an annual field trip to the White House and Capitol, and we also explored the Udvar-Hazy branch of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, VA. We have also volunteered our services to clean up a three-mile stretch of the C & O Canal near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.


The idea [of the History Alive approach] is to make teaching and learning the Social Studies an active, interactive experience that helps increase retention and raise interest levels.

Within the Social Studies Department, we have all been trained in the History Alive! approach of teaching, which includes techniques such as the interactive slide lecture, the experiential lesson, the Interactive Student Notebook, short dramatic plays called "act-it-outs," and reflective writing assignments. The idea is to make teaching and learning the Social Studies an active, interactive experience that helps increase retention and raise interest levels. The approach is designed for the History class, but I have adapted many of the topics of 8th grade Civics so they can be presented through the History Alive! model. When I was contacted by the Teaching-point publishers in 2002 to convert the lesson plans on my website into a book of resources for out-of certificate and overworked teachers, I incorporated many of these methods into my book, entitled Civics.


 Keeping Growth Alive