Four Houses One Gryphnation

Trials and Errors in the House System


Photo: Seth Taub

Griffin Jackson ‘23 and Chase Sutton ‘25 watch the House Day competition.

The House System is a fairly new concept to St. George’s Independent School, introduced in the 2018-19 school year under the leadership of Current Middle School Director Mrs. Emmy McClain and the student government. Mrs. McClain stated that her intentions behind it were to “create connectivity across grade levels to really pull the freshmen in quickly and give [the upper school] something other than sports to connect to other people.”

The houses allow for people to enjoy the company of other students throughout the upper school. The House System presents an array of activities for students: volleyball games, tug of war matches, trivia matches and trips to Shelby Farms. These examples represent just the tip of the iceberg of activities that come with the House System.

House Days only come every so often, so they may take students by surprise. Under the right circumstances, (i.e., not a global pandemic) there are typically two House Days per semester.

Although things are not completely back to normal, restrictions have eased up significantly compared to last year. With the mask mandate and social distancing rules being lifted, it has been easier to have these group activities. Even after the “recovery,” the reality is that there are still only one or two House Days per year.

Mr. Taylor Cao, Director of Student Life, believes that the students should always have input on what house days look like.

“From my student government, we have a pretty diverse group of students and organizations on our campus, so I try to make sure I get their values and their input, but also from adults with what they want,” he said.

Many students believe that House Days have been successful and that the competitiveness of them is fun and exciting. These students push for incorporating them more in the schedule. Other students feel that their interests are not reflected in the offerings.

Kyle Curlee ‘26 and West Smith ‘26 pose before showing off
their house chant. (Photo: Seth Taub)

While there may be conflicting opinions regarding these activities, it is apparent that the upper school student body finds House Days enjoyable because of the exciting games and leisure time that they bring.

Mrs. McClain remarked on House Days as “the funnest days of school [she’s] ever been in.” Students believe that the best way to improve the House System is to simply have more House Days.

Senior and Prefect of Religion Mary Alice Murphy commented on how “there weren’t as many activities as last House Day” and how she anticipated it to be “more than just like what there actually was.”

The contrasting emotions have been voiced by both students, which has led to a shared feeling of being left in the dark.

There are a number of factors that come into play regarding the apparent disorganization of the House System. For one, it is fairly new to the school and has only been active for five years. As a result, there has not been enough time for traditions and expectations to be put in place.

Also, the fact that there was a pandemic that put everything on hold for a couple of years cannot go unmentioned.

So, yes, there are holes in the House System, but the blame cannot be placed directly on one person, thing or event. The only thing that can be done from here is to keep pushing forward.

This year, there was a change in the House System with the addition of the House Groups. In essence, the House Groups were different subdivisions of people already in a specific house.

Mary Wilkes Dunavant ‘23 peforms the Honey Locust chant
during the first 2022-2023 House Day. (Photo: Seth Taub)

Mr. Cao explained that this idea came about after the general student general feedback was that “they don’t know kids in other grades.” So, the House Groups were born in an attempt to make the upper school closer, said Cao.

In these groups, there were smaller scale activities that were done during advisory every other Monday. In this time, the House Groups would compete with each other or other houses in spelling
bees or other games to get to know each other.

This addition was met with both a lack of enthusiasm and appreciation from some people.

Junior Drake Gonzalez commented on how “there was no point,” saying, “We did the House Group stuff and it would just be a teacher in there and we [were] answering questions with a teacher. We [weren’t] really talking to each other. So why not just keep the big groups?”

On the other hand, Sophomore Kerrigan Jackson expressed how she had grown to like them. “I personally liked the House Groups because it allowed smaller groups within the House to meet and do different activities and have a chance to get to know each other.”

After only existing for about half of the first semester, those reactions resulted in getting rid of the House Groups all together.

However, there is still hope for the House System. Mr. Cao and the student government are committed to keeping their promise in being able to do everything in their power to make high school as enjoyable as possible.

Lorelai Michael ’25 and Caroline Wood ’25 have fun during a
House Day event at Shelby Farms. (Photo: Seth Taub)

Action is being taken when it comes to voicing recommendations, as Mr. Cao recommended. Upper School Student Government President Jamez Jordan has already been in conversation with Mr. Cao as far as his goals going forward.

He said that he wants to “utilize the House System in a way that’s not everyday, but at least weekly status within the school system.”

With some years under its belt, the House System will be capable of reaching its potential.

Jordan has optimistic thoughts regarding the future of the House System.

“As far as [the House System] is right now, I think we’re making progress. And in a couple years it will be a full functioning program,” he said.