Ted Talks: What Makes Us US

Ted Graf, Head of School
The publication of this month’s Current comes near the end of a painful and upsetting week and weekend -- first the pipe bombs sent to political leaders and supporters around the U.S., the shooting of two people in Louisville, and then the inexplicable and tragic deaths of eleven people worshiping at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Headwaters remains committed to our Purpose of bringing more peace to the world and to supporting and caring for each child and family, regardless of race, ethnicity, faith, or nationality. Here is a link from Facing History and Ourselves written for middle and high school educators that may be useful to parents as you process these events. We’ll continue to share other resources we might find.


Last spring, as we looked ahead to this academic year and prepared for a year of self-study*,  I posed some questions for myself and for the entire Headwaters community:
What makes us US?  What distinguishes us as a school?  How are we unique?
The first of these self-study efforts, AIM (Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism), is well under way and has already stimulated some constructive and fascinating conversations and insights about Headwaters. I’m grateful to all who have participated.
If these processes sound like a lot of effort and coordination; they are. And it’s important to note how valuable these processes are at this moment in the school’s growth and life cycle (by the way, it’s a developmentally appropriate behavior for an adolescent). With the community’s participation and insights, we will use these opportunities for reflection to help us identify all that we do well and where we can improve.
To that end, I have been collecting my own observations about what makes us US, and, for the remainder of the year, I’ll use this column to share those with you. Keep an eye out for guest writers in this space or for excerpts of conversations with guides and students.
One of our most distinguishing features is our culture, and that culture exists because we’re teacher-founded and teacher-grounded. Unlike every other school where I have worked, Headwaters, and its progenitors (Primavera Montessori and Khabele), were imagined, begun, and birthed by teachers. In the world of K-12 schools, our genesis is highly unusual. Many K-12 schools were founded in collaboration with a church or by a group of parents, and those beginnings have built some amazing institutions. The circumstances around our founding set the tone for our relationships with students – they are respectful, real, and first-name. At a recent orientation of the Board of Trustees, Jen Phillips (co-founder of Primavera) and Lisa Dubuque (co-founder of Khabele) reminded us that both schools set out to establish authentic and caring student-teacher relationships and make it the center of all we do. Our DNA is rooted in the idealism of the early days of both schools.

One last note about our DNA and our history… Halloween signals our school’s birthday! I, for one, couldn’t think of a better birthday for Headwaters. Given our deep commitment to cultivating identity formation and the imagination and creativity that comes with comes with dressing up (especially see Heroes of the Past on the Creek Campus), in a way we’re supporting our kids in all the people they could become.

Please write to me at t.graf@headwaters.org if you have a response to What makes us US?

*Below is a list of the self-studies already begun:
  • AIM (Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism): Chosen by the school so that we might better understand the composition and attitudes of our entire school. Point Person: Lorena Germán.
  • TAAPS (Texas Association of Accredited Private Schools): Our current accrediting organization, required. Point person: Ted Graf.
  • IB (International Baccalaureate): Required five-year self-study to maintain our IB World School status. Point Person: Paul Cronin.
  • ISAS (Independent School Association of Southwest): Which will extend into the 2019-2020 school year, has been chosen because we believe it will help us build habits of reflection and regular improvement. TAAPS, IB, along with AIM, will feed into our ISAS application. Point Person: Terra Lynch.

Springs Campus

18 months to Pre-K
6305 Manchaca 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