TedTalks: Renovate and Rejuvenate, March/April 2021
Ted Graf, Head of School
One of the many impacts of the pandemic on the school has been prolonged isolation and "siloing" which has sometimes led to worry, skepticism, and even distrust. When we're unable to have genuine contact with colleagues, parents, students or loved ones we, understandably, fill the void and make up a story. This has been hard on us as a community--at times, it has contributed to tension and, even frustration. As we all envision how we want the 2021-2022 school year to feel, I urge us to imagine how we'll reconnect with each other, how we'll renovate and rejuvenate our friendships and our community.
Starting last September and in response to faculty requests for more information about the state of the school, I began writing to all faculty and staff on all three campuses weekly. In these updates, I share notes about administrative meetings, agendas, meetings with parents, admissions and enrollment data, financial and/or staffing information, etc. In fact, I use the same questions each week to craft the update:
What has changed since the Friday before in the areas of staffing, finance, or admissions/enrollment?
Where do enrollment and admissions stand?
Have there been any COVID-related cases across the campuses?
What's ahead in terms of COVID-related groups, administrative, and/or board work?
Have there been any new or relevant pieces of information from Austin Public Health, the CDC, the TEA, AISD, or other authorities? If so, what are they?
What have I read or watched this week as I try to stay current with K-12 education, public health, issues related to race & ethnicity, and/or COVID?
To be honest, it's not the most exciting piece to write (or read), but it has helped us stay current with information and, at times, it has served to connect all of us. Several guides have said they hope that I continue this practice next year, and I am open to it, though I would love to make it bi-weekly. With an eye toward August and September, we will give some thought to how to continue to provide you with current information and the development of our thinking.
In each update, I include a closing observation or thought, and here's one I wrote from the week following spring break.
I hope beyond hope that you were able to pause and restore yourselves over spring break. Like many of you, I find learning something new to be energizing, and so I took a class on letterpress printing at Flatbed Press. It was great for me to think about something other than the pandemic and the unending complexities of school life, especially during a pandemic. As we look ahead to the end of the year and consider how to acknowledge and transition from this difficult year, let's consider sharing interests, recipes, books and other parts of ourselves that remind us of our humanity. You may find this quotation from The Once and Future King to be both inspiring and useful right now:
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."