Ted Talks: Why We Begin the Way We Do

Ted Graf
Over the past two summers, we have begun what I hope will be a longstanding tradition for Headwaters as we reopen school. Instead of bringing in an inspiring outside speaker to kick off the year or having an administrator give a pep talk, we look inward and invite a guide to inspire us by telling his/her teaching story.
The process for invitation is important--the speaker is nominated by his/her peers, and I have the honor of sharing the news and extending the invitation on behalf of their colleagues.

Some of the questions we ask of our colleagues are:
How did you become a teacher? 
Why did you become a teacher?
Was there a teacher or family member who inspired you in this way?
What brought you to Headwaters and what attracted you to this particular school?
Why are you still a teacher?

Typically, after the guide speaks, we take a photo of all faculty and staff on the steps of Building 1 on the River Campus, and then we enjoy lunch together. Following lunch, we break into cross-campus groups to explore our summer reading choice. This past summer we read Dare to Lead by Brené Brown (if you wish to discuss the book with me and other parents or community members, please email headofschool@headwaters.org and let me know). By the way and in case you're curious, our prior summer reads have been Better by Atul Gawande; Teach, Breathe, Learn by Meena Srinivasan; and Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby.

In the summer of 2017, our inaugural year of teaching stories, MS/HS English Guide Lorena Germán told of her journey and becoming an English teacher. For Lorena, her journey is rooted in becoming the teacher she wished she had, and her career decisions have been guided by that motivation. She helped us focus on questions rooted in our PACT: How do we teach in a way where we begin to see people as wholistically and beautifully human and not limited to gender roles? How do we teach in a way young people are truly ready to change their communities? Last summer, Thunderbirds Guide Eduardo "Lalo" Martinez told his story, too. Telling of his less than satisfying relationship with school as a young person, his love of tinkering with his father (and learning with his hands), and his unexpected discovery of Montessori. Similar to Lorena, Lalo's career journey was motivated, in part, by becoming the kind of teacher he wished he had had and by his amazing curiosity and ability to inquire.

This summer we got to hear from Roadrunners Guide Elizabeth Vickers who told us of her love of the outdoors and her childhood running free beside rivers; about growing up in a family of educators and teachers and about her sense of awe when she discovered Montessori classrooms. No one in her family of educators had worked with such young children and had not taught in the way our guides do in a Montessori environment. She even went on to share an anecdote about the teddy bear she used to "teach" in her pretend classroom as a young girl. It's the same one she brings to circle with her students when they read aloud.
Each of these guides has given to the school in significant and remarkable ways and each of them typifies many of the qualities we admire and seek in new colleagues--they know that deep learning can be transformational; they can think like and empathize with children and know what it means to be a children; they know that teaching is a calling and they think hard about it; and they believe that all children deserve remarkable teachers.

I urge each of us to thank the guides and teachers here at Headwaters and other teachers you have encountered in your educational journey. By elevating the craft and importance of teaching, we tell our children that they're important and the development of their hearts and minds are equally as important.

These first few days have been calm and spirited, playful and thoughtful. As we all enter more fully into our routines, please know we are committed to sustaining this atmosphere throughout the school year.

Springs Campus

18 months to Pre-K
6305 Manchaca Rd.
Austin, TX 78745
Phone: 512-443-8843

Creek Campus

Elementary School
9607 Brodie Ln.
Austin, TX 78748
Phone: 512-804-2708
Fax: 512-628-4810

River Campus

Middle & High School
807 Rio Grande St.
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: 512-480-8142
Fax: 512-480-0278