Ted Talks: What Gives Me Hope | October 2021

Ted Graf, Head of School
I have come to believe that those of us who work with children and work in schools during times of upheaval and change (like these) are quite fortunate. While schools, of course, continue to be affected by the pandemic and the accompanying economic uncertainty, we get to spend most of our days with kids who live in the present and many kids who are focused on their futures. They are tired of inaction and lengthy adult explanations—they want connection, they want to see progress, they want discovery and learning. 

Conditions for kids of all ages continue to be challenging, but when the students gather in our prepared environments and with our guides, there is palpable energy and a tendency to gravitate towards joy, wonder, and laughter. In my mind, this is what great schools should be: both refuges (of a kind) so students can develop in the ways they need to, and they should be microcosms of the broader society, too. 

Having completed a little more than a month of school, I wanted you to have a glimpse of what is giving me hope for our school and for the vast world beyond our school.
  • During circle drive and morning drop-off on the Creek Campus, Early Elementary classmates—adorned in glittery backpacks—wait for each other and walk to class together. They don’t want their friends to walk in alone.
  • And what of the delightful boy in Primary who has memorized his classmates’ names, greets them in the morning, and helps them find their hook to hang their lunch and nap roll? He even has figured out the code on the door and helps me remember it!
  • There is the parent and child in middle school who made personalized and decorated energy snack bags for every guide on the River Campus just because it was fun and to express their gratitude for opening in person.
  • How about the dozens of muffins that appeared on a recent Wednesday morning in the Creek Campus kitchen to tell the guides “thank you?”
  • And what about the guides who joined us in August right before the opening of school and have worked extra hours in order to understand and integrate themselves into the community?
  • How about the nine parents who have volunteered to serve on the school’s Health Advisory Group? Several have volunteered to swab noses as part of our screening testing efforts, too.
  • Then there are the guides who began cleaning and assembling their classrooms before they were expected to return.
  • How about the outspoken and determined seniors who challenged us about Community Agreement #3—observing that non-violent communication tended to be formulaic and inauthentic, and urged us to reconsider. They want something that lifts up authenticity so the communication is genuine.
  • What about the guides who hosted a dinner last June so we could discuss how best to transmit the school’s culture, especially since some of their long-serving colleagues had left?
  • Or the parents who have offered up their homes and backyards so we can assemble larger school groups safely?
  • Then there are the parents who asked to meet with us about how they could help us make the outdoor environments and classrooms cooler and work better.
  • How about the 20 middle school students who are playing flag football (when there are only eight players on the field at a time)?
  • And what about those sixth graders who showed grace and resilience during their very first volleyball game and with someone who had never refereed before?
  • And what of the new colleague who asked to meet with me so they could express their aspirations and hopes for a more vital and active service learning program?

When I blend these gestures, I see countless acts of kindness and generosity, and I feel the hope that a culture of care—for each other, for ourselves, for the environment, and for learning—can contribute to a healthier society.

Our school came to life just weeks after 9/11/2001, and it has shown its grit and resilience time and again. Today is no different. We are an accumulation of these gestures (and the hundreds more) that show our empathy and display our desire to bring more peace to the world.

Regardless of whether it’s connected to the school or not, please send me a note about what’s giving you hope at this link.

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