Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Civics with Dean – Class 1

Civics with Dean: This class focuses on liberty (yours), the power of the individual, and concepts of self-government. There will be an emphasis on what you need to know to be an active citizen and awareness of your rights. We will discuss certain amendments and how they IMPACT you (street law), financial literacy (can I afford that?), basics of government - information to know when you can say enough, as well as the rights and privileges you are owed! izzit* time we see how government works for us, our responsibilities, and how to get an equitable outcome for you?

More often than not, students seem to dread history and/or civics for many reasons. One reason is the voluminous amounts of reading the student must complete to “keep up” with what inevitably becomes the second reason: rote memorization of facts. Names, dates, key figures, etc. What needs to be infused in the classroom dynamic is the educator’s passion, emotions, expertise (tying the past to their understanding). In the movie Jerry Maquire, Cuba Groding, in his role as Ron Tidwell, screamed, “Show me the money!” Translated to students today, show me the relevance! With the right resources, you, the educator, will show them the money/relevance.

Civics Class 1 – Back in the Trenches (Classroom)

Syllabus – check. Notebooks, izzit pens and flash drives ready for students – check. I was ready for my first Civics class. As the 2020-2021 school year began, I started with the Pledge of Allegiance.     

While it's a traditional start to a school day, I had a hidden agenda! By the time we all got to "…and to the Republic, for which it stands…" I stopped the class.

"What is a Republic? Why is it in the Pledge?" The questioned was posed and students offered various responses. After allowing them a few awkward attempts toward to answer, I immediately started's Teachable Moments (a short video that both gets to the point and shakes things up,) A Republic. As I looked across the classroom, students were attentive and engaged. The Teachable Moment allowed me to then reframe the question, "Why did the founders believe a republic would be better than a democracy?" Student answers became more along the lines of what our Framers intended. 

The idea of liberty was introduced, and we began to discuss individual & property rights and what liberty meant to each of them. LIBERTY was written on the whiteboard and students added their thoughts (see picture). Since a republic form of government and liberty are synonymous, I turned the class discussion to what gave our Founders the impetus, the ideals of both individual liberty & property rights, and how government serves the people. To help stimulate the conversation, I queued up another Teachable Moments, Magna Carta. This “great charter” happened over 800 years ago, but ties to the U.S. founding documents, underscoring that each document safeguards a person’s right to property. It began to help students piece the puzzle together. Great discussion and ideas were shared. 

Finally, I wrapped my class with the homework assignment - completing the First Amendment Word Games (Found in First Amendment educational video under izzit Extras). This will help students build a foundation for understanding prior to next week’s Bill of Rights, First Amendment discussion.


Dean Graziano is the Vice-President of He is a multi-state, award-winning educator and former Curriculum Specialist Teacher grades 6-12 Social Studies, with over 25 years in education. He served on the Massachusetts MCAS Standard Setting Panel, and also selected by the College Board to be an Advanced Placement Reader for U.S. History. He worked on the historical inquiry model and a national presenter for ABC-Clio, a Social Studies data base company. 

In 2007, in a surprise visit to his school, he was awarded the United States Department of Educations' American Star of Teaching Award. Dean was selected as the 2017 State of New Hampshire's Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator- of -the Year. Dean’s pilot program in Rochester, NH was singled out by NH Governor, Chris Sununu as the model for the State of N.H. Career Academies. In 2019, he developed and implemented a proposal to purchase a Mobile Classroom ( a new & remodeled 36’ RV, aka M.A.P.s) utilizing Perkins V funding, to bring CTE/WBL programming - leveling the playing field/equity for ALL NH students and spoke nationally at several ACTE Conferences on this model.