Ted Talks: On Agency and Advocacy

Ted Graf, Head of School
When the idea of the PACT came into focus in June 2018, we weren’t seeking an acronym. In fact, we were playing with the language during one of our final faculty meetings on the River Campus, completing this year-long project of identifying the outcomes of a Headwaters education. Some of us were sitting on the floor of the Studio, some of us were at the computer screen wordsmithing, and some of us were watching and listening.  Aside from our closing acknowledgement circle, this was one of our last meetings of the school year, and we were eager to begin the summer.

We paused on the word advocacy. Peacemaking, creating, and thinking were deeply ingrained in the school, but some of us were uncertain about advocacy and whether it fit. Did we really mean activism? And wasn’t activism partisan? Was it right to take a partisan stance? In the context of all of that, there was also some debate about use of the word agency. Was it too academic and removed from the real world? Could we help younger children understand they have agency? That each of us has agency; we have spheres of influence and areas of skill and expertise, and we can choose to use those traits to advocate for what we believe. And the phrase, “a more just and equitable society” stuck out too. Some guides asked if we could say this, while others wondered whether it was strong enough. As we know, Advocate remained; agency remained, and we did say we could commit ourselves and our education to a more just and equitable society. All of these qualities, in some form, were part of the original aspirations of the Khabele School and Primavera Montessori.

During a year where our interconnectedness is highlighted by the pandemic and where our environment seems to be teetering on the edge of catastrophe and a culture where empathy, compromise, and problem-solving seems distant, I am proud that we had the courage to say to ourselves, our families, and our students that we want everyone who comes in contact with the school to be an Advocate.

Last year, half a dozen high school students came together with the goal of naming each room on the River Campus for someone they and the student body admires and who embodies the PACT. In collaboration with several guides, the students have come up with a long list of people who fit their understanding of Peacemakers, Advocates, Creators, and Thinkers. 

Once the final decisions are made and the signs are affixed to the rooms, we’ll be sure to inform the community. In the meantime, I urge each of us to identify who those role models may be in our lives and to recommit to the PACT. With the deaths of John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we say goodbye to two incredible advocates. Their lives and work remind us that one brave voice can have an immeasurable impact on the lives of others.

Springs Campus

18 months to Pre-K
6305 Menchaca 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