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Ted’s Blog: Thinking About My Mother, Summer Reading and Next Year (always next year)


By Ted Graf, Head of School

There is something so delicious about summer reading for me. Beginning in the summer before fifth grade, I have memories of first reading The Hobbit beside a lake and in the shade of pine trees with time unfurling. I was lost in the Shire, Bilbo’s bravery, and completely absorbed by the world Tolkien created. Later in life, after having traveled across Nepal, my (re)reading of Tolkien’s work was even more inspiring, enhanced by the sense of mystery and spirituality while hiking in the shadows of the Himalayas.

To say that I have high expectations of summer and summer reading would be an understatement. Like so many of our students, I was lucky that my parents and, particularly, my mother fostered our curiosity and deep reverence for writers, poets, artists, and musicians. I was also lucky that the digital distractions were non-existent, with the exception of an occasional cartoon. To this day, I still perk up when I think I smell the now defunct Apple Tree Bookstore on a corner in Concord, NH–musty cushions on a window seat, the scent of new pages, the hush in the store (no piped in muzak). Each year at the end of school, my mother would take us there and allow us to choose two books we wanted (no editing), and she even allowed hardcovers. Annie, as her grandchildren called her, also fostered our love of books and literature by dropping us off at our sweet, local library and saying she would see us at home. The librarians would say, “Hi, Teddy. Remember to to keep your voice down.” They knew me well; even then I could project.

As the school year closes with its poignant rituals and farewells, we urge you to consider how you will support yourself and your family in luxuriating in story this summer; how you will balance the development of imagination with the development of the body? How will you slow down? Will you read aloud to each other? Will you all read a common book as my family did a couple of years ago (Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell, not recommended for readers younger than 14)?

For the second year in a row, the faculty and staff will be reading a book together, and we’ll use it to explore and better understand the relationship between our emotions and the vital craft and art of teaching. This year we’ll be reading Meena Srinivasan’s highly recommended Teach Breathe Learn: Mindfulness In and Out of the Classroom. As reviewed by Jennifer Gonzalez on her blog, Cult of Pedagogy, “The material in this book comes from Srinivasan’s own teaching experience. Just a few years into her own teaching career, she overheard some of her students complaining about her: “Watch out,” one of them said. “Ms. Srinivasan is in a really bad mood today—class sucked!” “In a flash,” Srinivasan writes, “I learned that my emotional state is transmitted to my students regardless of the lesson I’m teaching…”

When ’17-’18 begins, we need to focus broadly on supporting and developing outstanding educators, and so, as a faculty and staff, we will spend time hearing each other’s teaching stories and opening up our practice–reflecting on HOW we teach (thank you Dr. Montessori), not just what we teach.

You are welcome to join us in reading Teach Breathe Learn or choose from the other books suggested by members of the Headwaters community. Deep thanks to the parents and faculty who filled out the survey earlier in the spring.

  • Social Media and The Secret Life of the American Girl by Nancy Jo Sales
  • Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba
  • Parenting from the Inside Out by Dan Siegel
  • The Road to Character by David Brooks
  • Thanks for the Feedback: The Art and Science of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
  • The End of Average by Todd Rose
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
  • Originals by Adam Grant
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck

I look forward to seeing you at the closing concerts, talent shows, Gates of Life, and Graduation (June 4th). My summer reading list (for now) includes the following: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett, Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves, and All the Houses by Karen Olsson. Please don’t be shy about sending along your own summer reading suggestions to, or follow my musings on Twitter @HeadwatersHOS.

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