What is the House System?
The house system is a traditional feature of British schools. Though historically associated with boarding schools, where a student’s “house” was also his dormitory, it more broadly indicates a basic grouping of pupils. Designed to organize and enrich student life while allowing older students to assume leadership amongst their peers, house systems are gaining increased attention among universities and public and private schools (classical schools in particular).
At GHWH, houses are led by Faculty House Consuls and High School Student Leaders, who are nominated by their peers and appointed by faculty on the basis of their character and leadership. House Student Leaders are assisted by House Delegates from each grade. Houses are also supervised by House Governors – one for 5th grade, one for MS & one for HS. The Governors report directly to the Head of Houses.
Over the course of the year, all students in the house will formally and informally contribute to their house’s flourishing and success. In addition to their place within the school’s cultural life, providing an occasion for mentoring and encouragement, houses also compete throughout the year in various activities. Reflecting the holistic life of the school, houses will engage in contests centered on school spirit, academics, sports, and more. Points for their conduct and successes will be awarded throughout the year, with the highest achieving house ultimately winning the annual House Cup.
What is the purpose of a House System?
The house system at Western Hills is designed to help build smaller communities within the larger school community so that all may belong to something meaningful; all may grow in friendship, charity, and citizenship, and that all may thrive as they strive to live life to the fullest, now and in years to come. Through the houses, friendships are strengthened, camaraderie is forged, and school life is more fulfilling. At GHWH, education works to invest in its students a culture of virtue, wisdom, purpose, and courage. All parts of our institution bear a responsibility to advance this culture, cultivating in students a desire for excellence in their minds, spirits, and bodies. The chemistry class, the basketball squad, the music choir, and the debate team all exist because they can uniquely offer students a valuable way of becoming more virtuous, wise, purposeful, and courageous – a means of more wholly becoming Renaissance men and women. The house system follows in this same vein. The community and relationships we will create around our house traditions will be passed down from class to class for years to come.
As GHWH grows, the Spartan community that lives out this culture grows larger. While that growth brings great encouragement and opportunity, it also presents dangers. We never want students to be anonymous, unaccountable to, or unchallenged by their peers. Teaching, exhortation, accountability, leadership, and challenges come in the forms of relationships. The house system’s primary goal is to preserve and enrich a community with students reaching across lines of grades, classes, and interests to establish meaningful relationships that manifest encouragement, accountability, leadership, challenge, and joy. Organizing the oldest grade of the Lower School (5th gr) and the Upper School into houses is a way for the students to take ownership of and leadership in pursuing these aims.
The House System is not intended to instigate division or strife within the Spartan community. Rather, houses seek to counteract natural divisions by making a place for all students (regardless of their grade, interest, inclination, or circle of friends) to know and edify one another.
What’s behind the Houses’ names?
Students are divided into one of 4 houses, which have been given the surnames of characters from stories we read at GHWH written by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. The Narnian Houses are Reepicheep, representing a family of Talking Mice led by their fearless leader, Reepicheep, and Pevensies, representing the 4 Pevensies children: Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, who help Narnia defeat the White Witch and other enemies of Narnia. The Middle Earthian Houses are Oakenshield, representing a prestigious clan of dwarves, and Baggins, representing a humble but courageous family of hobbits. These names recognize very human weaknesses and strengths through characters of fantasy which we have vicariously walked in the shoes of as we read their stories.
How are House points earned?
Houses earn points towards the House Cup based on the achievements of their members as a whole. Points will be tallied on a monthly, quarterly, semester, and annual basis; here are some of the categories in which points are earned:
- Least amount of infractions
- School attendance
- Friday House shirt count
- Friday House competitions
- Weekly Campus cleanup duties
- Athletic & Academic Olympics
- Winter House Festival
The house with the most points will be honored at the Annual House Banquet on the last day of school for their accomplishments by being awarded the House Cup and a championship shirt for all House members.
How does leadership in the Houses work?
House leadership is structured around the principle of active student service and participation in the life of the school. Each house has 8-10 faculty members who champion culture and mentor their student leaders. The following will be our Student House leaders:
- House Captain (9)– Guardian of House Lore and assists all other leaders in their roles of coordinating and assigning tasks and participation in House events. *The Captain and Co-Captain will work directly with the Governor and their own House Consuls.
- House Co-Captain (9) – is a like an “assistant coach,” which means that this person will support and assist in decision making, planning, coordinating and leading tasks and events assigned to their House.
- Competition manager (8/9) – all things competitive (including inter-house competitions). This includes proposing All-House-Competitions & Inter-House Competitions to the Governor and assisting at Friday House Competitions.
- Service Director (8/9)– managing on campus and off campus service projects. This includes researching and proposing possible projects to serve both GHWH and the surrounding community.
- ThuMeister (8/9)– shenanigans and leader of the pep squad. This includes, but is not limited to, proposing and organizing shenanigans, as well as organizing a committee to make posters & attend intramural & athletic events, create new chants & cheers, and help lead the spirit at pep rallies, House Olympics, etc.
- Historian (8/9)– contributes to the yearbook, school newspaper & House Scrapbook. This includes creating and leading a committee that will contribute to the Spartan newspaper (still to be named), collect and add memorabilia to the House Scrapbook and lead members of their House to contribute to the Spartan US yearbook.
- 6th & 7th Grade Delegates – one from each grade 6 & 7. Each grade level Delegate must attend bi-weekly House Leadership Meetings TBD. Your main job is to represent your respective grade at House leadership meetings by bringing ideas to the group to discuss and then report back decisions, events, shenanigans, etc to your grade during Lyceum.
The Governors of the House System oversee all four Houses: Mrs. Molder – 5th grade, Miss Riedlinger – MS, and Mr. Grover – HS. Mrs. Keffer is Head of All Houses. Students who seek formal leadership within our school may apply for House leadership in the spring prior to the year they desire to serve. The selection criteria are based on the interview, the application, peer and faculty reviews, and the history the student has in supporting and leading within the school prior to their application.
What is the House Mentor Program?
The program is designed to grow student leaders who have a desire to serve their school and their House by “coming alongside” younger house mates and new students. The mentors will be the role players, the teammates, the leaders who will help to pass along House and Academy culture – those things that help to bind the community together by giving the team the HEART it needs to thrive. Each House Mentor will have 2-3 mentees who will need someone to look up to, listen to them, answer their questions, give advice and simply be their friend. You will answer questions like, “What do you do when you need HW help?” or advice on how to keep their locker clean. Other responsibilities may include sharing tips on how to grow a friendship or what to do when someone forgets their lunch. House Mentors will also help plan events such as New Student Orientation. Finally, each Mentor will have a Faculty Mentor Advisor who will guide them in their role.