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The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

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The Review


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House system needs remodeling, students say

Kenzie Chu
Freshman Luke Brasher devours a slice during SAC’s watermelon-eating contest.

When Thea Popovic started her freshman year, she anticipated a steady stream of House activities after the retreat at Stony Creek Ranch. To her surprise, she, like many of her peers, has not attended a single House event this year. 

This trend reflects a broader pattern among Upper School students: the bulk of their involvement with the House system takes place during their freshman retreat.

When the school year started, freshmen expected the House games to continue at the same frequency as they occurred during the retreat. But soon, students became occupied with their hectic schedules, and their Houses quickly became irrelevant. 

The House system was invented when former Headmaster Mark Desjardins collaborated with the senior prefects of the 2011-12 school year in an attempt to increase school spirit and sense of community. Houses are in the mission statements of prestigious universities such as Yale, Rice and Oxford who aim to foster a greater sense of community in their student body. This idea was further popularized by the world-renowned Hogwarts houses in the Harry Potter books. The prefects drew their inspiration from the Germantown Academy located in Pennsylvania. 

While the idea seemed great in theory, the House system has not lived up to its full potential. There are few “competitive” events a year, and teachers do not frequently use House points as rewards for students. 

“If we used our Houses, it could be good, but since we don’t use them, it’s useless,” freshman Conrad Moore said. This sentiment is echoed by many students who believe that the House system could be a more integral part of student life. 

Desjardins’ original plan was for the House system to create closer connections on a K-12 level with students of all grades interacting and collaborating with each other. Ironically, many students are not aware that their own friends are in the same house as them. 

“Students don’t really pay attention to it because they are too focused on other things such as academics and sports,” freshman Allison Lu said. 

Although House captains try to encourage students to show up to House events, their messages often go unheard as most students are preoccupied with their course load. 

“In our House group chat, the captains post information about upcoming events, and then after the event happens, they always say we didn’t have enough participation,” freshman Maya Kadia said. 

In the first year of the House system’s existence, there was a House tournament with a winners’ bracket. Competitions included tug of war, catchphrase, name that tune and dodgeball. While these activities still take place sporadically, student participation is limited. 

“I think that we would benefit from some healthy competition,” Kadia said. 

A way to do this would be to create a winners’ bracket like in prior years that would instill a sense of fun in House games and make students hungry to compete. The winning house could receive a free dress day or other rewards. 

Additionally, SAC could take inspiration from other schools’ traditions and bring fresh ideas into the current House system. Freshman English teacher Marquita Gill recalls that her school, Harrison College, had a House system that transformed her high school experience, but at St. John’s, she can barely remember who is in the lead. 

“When I was in high school, we had House competitions which involved actual sports events such as swimming and running. We also had assemblies that would be based on our houses. When I came here, I thought it would be the same thing,” Gill said. 

By including sports-based events in House games, it would provide student-athletes a chance to show off their skill set while also allowing other students to enjoy participating in an activity that differs from their normal school routine. This would instill a spirit of camaraderie and bonding within each house.

Field Day was a way for students K-12 to connect with each other in a setting outside of the classroom. Now, the closest event to Field Day is a Wellness Day for Middle School students followed by outdoor advisory games. Although planning a Field Day would be an immense task for SAC, it could rejuvenate the House system and stop students from wondering the purpose of their house. 

While many students remain impartial, the House system has the potential to foster a tight-knit community by adding new activities to students’ schedules at SJS. The Freshman Retreat is a beneficial experience that brings students together, but House bonding does not have to stop there. Students can be actively involved in their Houses, participating in games and finding enjoyment by engaging in spirited House rivalries. 

“The House system needs to engage the student body by providing fun team bonding and lasting memories so that your House is not just a name assigned to you,” sophomore Harrison Wright said.

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About the Contributors
Nia Shetty
Nia Shetty, Staff Writer
Nia Shetty ('27) joined The Review in 2023 as a freshman. She loves her dogs, Chuy and Casper. Her favorite TV character is Dr. House, whose unconventional approach to solving cases makes her laugh all the time.
Kenzie Chu
Kenzie Chu, Staff Writer
Kenzie Chu ('26) joined The Review in 2022 as a freshman. Her favorite cereal is honey bunches of oats with strawberries. She actually did like the summer reading book this year.

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    Annie JonesMar 29, 2024 at 9:06 PM

    Great article! I love Lucy Walker’s cookies I’m sorry Lucy Walker