Ted Talks: Sheltering in Place

Ted Graf, Head of School
My first Halloween at Headwaters (October 2015) was spent huddled on a bathroom floor with six second and third grade students for nearly 40 minutes. Let me explain.
I had arrived on the Creek Campus adorned in a long beard, a wizard’s hat, a wand, and a cape, and I was looking forward to welcoming students into the day with a flourish of Albus Dumbledore’s incantations from Harry Potter. Expelliarmus! 

Ted's Halloween Costumes Ted's other Halloween Costumes over the years.
Instead, the heavens opened and Virginia and I hustled inside, along with dozens of parents and grandparents. Then, we learned that a tornado warning had been issued for south Austin, and, so my tenure at Headwaters began in severe weather and sheltering in place.

I learned a lot about our school during that day. First, we love Halloween and the unbridled imagination and playfulness of it. Second, our parents (and even grandparents) love having access and a window into their children’s daily life--the stuff of classrooms and friendships and discovery. Third, we take our preparations seriously, and, thankfully, the Creek Campus was ready for a “severe weather event.” In fact, we were so ready that I was assigned to help with the “new building,” and that’s how I ended up sheltering in place with the early elementary students.

The storm passed; a tornado did not touch down that Halloween, though we did evacuate the River Campus due to a risk of flooding downtown and the Springs Campus, especially the building on the Berkeley Street side, did take on some water. In the end, everyone was fine and everyone had a story to tell. The students were resilient and the grown-ups were ready to offer pragmatic and thoughtful care.

Little did we know that those very same attributes would be needed for seven consecutive months and for the foreseeable future. When we’re confident that the worst of COVID-19 has passed, what stories will we tell? I hope we will tell stories that we were inventive but cautious as we worked to get students back on our campuses. I hope we will say that we continued to care for each other across Zoom, through car windshields, in socially distanced circles across picnic tables. I hope we tell stories that are grace-filled--patience in navigating new tech tools, learning about epidemiology, doing more with less.

With our 19th anniversary here, I invite you to join me in telling stories about what the school can do under duress and imagine stories of what it will do in its future. I look forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary in person with you all a year from now. Until then, please stay safe.

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