September/October 2023 Ted Talks: How’s It Going?

Ted Graf, Head of School
The following column was written prior to the start of the Israel-Hamas War. Please see Ted’s note to the community titled Being Peacemakers: Reflecting on the Israel-Hamas War and we hope you read his column below, too.

As soon as we get past Labor Day, people tend to ask me, “How’s the school year going?” When I reflect on the challenges of the past three years, I respond with confidence that the new school year feels great; it’s lighter, more buoyant, and more like school used to feel. And then I often say, “But remember, it’s still school.” By that I mean it remains a beautifully humbling and amazingly uplifting enterprise–being with children every day and helping them and their families grow, learn, and stretch is not simple or easy work. So, it’s still school–some days are remarkably inspiring and some days are puzzling or, even, unsettling. Most days have some of both. As we lean on the routines, traditions, and schedules of the school year, we must still look ahead and tell stories about what the school could be. 

While everyone in the school sets goals for the year, I have the good fortune of setting goals with lots of input from parents, faculty, and, even, students from the prior year, AND I have the collaboration, input, and support from the Board of Trustees. The major work of this year can be organized into three areas, and each is intended to help the school look forward:

  1. Focusing on Programs and the Students’ Experience – With the Academic Team Leaders, we have reorganized ourselves and we are spending more time, focus, and energy on supporting the guides through more regular classroom visits, deeper attention to curricula, and what we hope is more inspiring and pragmatic professional development. All of this is in service of amplifying a sense of wonder and curiosity and a sense of self and self-efficacy for the students. 

  1. Reviving Community – A key element of Headwaters’ success since its inception has been our sense of community, and one of my goals this year is to work with Susie, Tim, Terra, and Avé (the Academic Team Leaders) to stimulate and revive community within each campus and program, and, whenever possible, across the campuses. When we plan events, we are designing with an eye toward connection, authenticity, and joy.

  1. Connecting with Parents to Write the School’s Future – In preparation for this school year and in my end of year reflection and evaluation with the board, it was clear that I did not tell the story about the school’s possible futures with the energy and excitement they deserve. So, my overarching goal for this school year is to lead us in embracing all of our strategic priorities, and, principally, our aspirations and vision for facilities.

Focusing, reviving, and connecting is emerging as a mantra for me this year. In the spirit of that mantra, I am going to use my TedTalk column to tell stories about the school’s future throughout this academic year. My friend (and friend of the school) Greg Bamford of Leadership+Design reminds us, 

“Stories help us make the future more imaginable, more tactile, and more navigable. Who among us hasn’t had an emotional reaction to a plot twist in a movie or the satisfying resolution of a novel? Stories give us an emotional connection to situations we haven’t yet experienced.”

I hope you’ll join me on the sidewalks, at parent coffees, at parent ed, at the Fall Fling, at concerts and sing-alongs, at curriculum nights, at the myriad of community events to share with me stories and hopes about how the school can continue to grow and develop and serve kids from all over Austin. 

Spring Campus

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Creek Campus

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River Campus

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As a 501(c)3 non-profit school, Headwaters School does not discriminate because of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other classes protected by federal, state, or local law in its admissions, financial aid, hiring, or board membership processes.