The House System: An Interview with Molly Mitchell

Kellen: What background can you give me on the House system? Molly: It’s been in the works here for a while in the sense that people have been thinking about how we do mixed grade advisories so that everything’s not just grade specific. In Innovations, a senior History class, last year four students created this concept of what we now call the House. Then all of the grade level coordinators, Mindy, and I worked together throughout the rest of last year to put together what it might look like, so as Mindy talked about yesterday in the assembly, we are trying to create our map, our guide.

Kellen: Why did the school think it was necessary to change from the old system?

Molly: I think there were several things at play. One was the idea of doing mixed grade levels because it is a great opportunity for juniors and seniors to be mentors, and have leadership opportunities. I think that students learn a lot from peers who have already been through what they’ve been through. Also, it helps advisors be better advisors too, when there is someone else in the room who can help answer questions. The other issue was that we were doing class meetings, so the way the schedule was last year, during break time on Mondays, we sometimes had announcements where we gathered in the gym for maybe five minutes, and then all of the other days switched between grade advisories and class meetings. Students were really feeling like their time was being wasted. They would just file in, whether it was an all-school meeting or a class meeting, and then, “Any announcements? No? Ok! You can go.” So how do we use our time better as a community?

Kellen: What are the goals of the house system?

Molly: The overarching goal of the House System is to find a space for mixed grade level interaction and to be able to offer some mentorship and leadership opportunities. Also, we thought during spirit weeks and competitions, it would be more fun to have mixed-grade teams, as opposed to having the seniors always win because they are the seniors. So instead you’re collaborating within a mixed-grade team to compete in a way that might be more spirited fun. The idea of it also is to create more opportunities for some spirit.

Kellen: What are some benefits of the new system?

Molly: I do still think that having a small advisory by grade is important, but I also think having interaction with younger and older students in that very positive school community is important. I think that the House system is a great opportunity when we are able to practice it more and be together more, to create more of a sense of community than just grade level.  I think a lot of the students who come from middle school enjoyed their middle school experience, but one of the things that they talk about that they like better in the upper school is, once you get here, you’re mixing grades 9 through 12, whereas in middle school, you tend to be 6th grade, 7th grade, or 8th grade. I think that’s why people enjoy their time on sports teams, or robotics, or anything that’s cross grade. I think there are some things you can learn from each other that you don’t necessarily want some adult telling you. I would say that the creation of a closer, more spirited community is definitely one of the benefits.