Ted Talks: Moving Into Our Next Phase, January 2020
Ted Graf, Head of School
Over the past two years, Headwaters has spent a lot of time and energy reflecting on where we've been, how we've gotten to this point, and where we're headed. As a summary, we completed our required self-study for TAAPS (Texas Alliance for Accredited Private Schools) last March and earned accreditation again; we completed our first ever self-study for the International Baccalaureate and learned a lot about the evolution of our Diploma Programme; we voluntarily completed the AIM (Assessment on Inclusivity and Multiculturalism) process and generated insights and recommendations about how we can more fully live into the part of our Purpose statement that reads, "embrace diversity to bring more peace to the world." And, we recently completed our first self-study for the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS). The visiting team of 16 fellow educators from across the region were here this week exploring our delightful school.
I am deeply proud of our work in each of these efforts, because, to be completely candid, we know ourselves better now, and they help us plan for our future.
What follows is a "greatest hits" from those reports, and I have sorted these excerpts into two categories: Affirming and Awakening.
First, the Awakening category--by that I mean, something we learned about the school that emerged, or we didn't know before:
Many members of the school community are ready and eager to hear about our plans for the future and to "shift our collective mindset and look ahead and make strategic and deliberate plans."
While most community members believe deeply in the 3Ps, they want them more clearly defined and discussed. We all seem to want them to be more consistently implemented too. There was lots of interest in better understanding and living into the PACT (Peacemakers, Advocates, Creators, and Thinkers).
All community members seem to agree that we have countless opportunities to strengthen the school by including and working WITH students.
There continues to be confusion and even disagreement about what we mean by diversity. Are we only interested in racial and ethnic diversity? What about socio-economic diversity? What about diversity of outlook or approach? Where do we stand with regard to neuro-diversity? Clearer definitions would help our work in this area too.
Our facilities, while adequate, emerged as a central need, especially among the faculty and staff. Groups on all three campuses hope for larger spaces, designed to better accommodate our students and programs. Likewise, the quality and upkeep of facilities was raised time and again.
Second, there were many insights that fall into the Affirming category--by this I mean values and efforts that are going well, and we want to be sure to preserve and amplify.
The school's commitment and skill in the area of social-emotional learning is one of our greatest strengths.
Our longstanding commitment to mindfulness and metacognition across all classrooms and campuses pre-dates current educational trends and is central to our identity.
Student voice and agency are central to our identity, as is independent and self-directed learning. Both qualities help us develop skills of self-regulation and an "internal compass" in our students.
The uniqueness of our Mission/Purpose (i.e. the longstanding focus on peace-making) is important to all segments of the school community.
In the face of leadership transitions and, occasionally, confusing times, the school's collective resilience, loyalty, and chutzpah served us well and is an indelible aspect of our school's community and culture.
Our remarkable resourcefulness and creativity regarding facilities and our ability to enhance and enrich programs for the students is a point of pride, though there was widespread agreement that it is time for the school to plan facilities for the school's future.
An appreciation for the strong and deep relationships between guides, students, and their families is at the core of all we do.
Based on all this work, it's clear Headwaters is on the cusp of its next phase of evolution and development. That next chapter will be characterized by a deeper and surer sense of our identity; continued maturation of our "school-keeping" systems and processes (think customer service); a vision and plan for our future, especially as it pertains to facilities; an understanding of our place in the Austin community; and an abiding commitment to creating school WITH the students.