The Four Walls that Make a House

Media drawn by Juliette Robertson ‘25

Many students dream of attending Hogwarts, and now that the high school has announced that it will be implementing a house system, some of us may be one step closer to fulfilling our childhood fantasies.

There are four houses, each composed of advisories from all four grades. Since the summer of 2023, Mr. James, the interim assistant head of high school, and Ms. Perry, the head of high school, have been brainstorming ideas for this system, hoping for success. 

When asked what prompted the emergence of the house system, Mr. James shared: “It is a structure that provides lots of ways to come up with ideas for us to have fun as a community through games like trivia, for example generational trivia where students answer questions about the 90s and teachers had to answer questions about more current trends.” 

Mr. James emphasized his desire to build cross-grade friendships and a more dense community network. As a result, the house system aims to transform community meetings into a setting where students work together and foster friendly competition though specific objectives, such as acquiring house points. 

Students, however, raise concerns about the approaches employed to establish a closer relationship between grades. When asked for student opinion, Caitlyn P. ’25 offered some confusion on how the house system, in particular, would promote cross-grade bonding.

 “A lot of people are still going to choose to sit with their friends,” Caitlyn said, “and choose to interact with their already established friend group.”

Later Caitlyn added, “I think that when the house meetings are held in one big space, you feel less engaged and connected. However, in advisory bowl challenges, you are competing with your friends in the grade, which promotes more excitement towards collaboration and winning.” 

As a solution to this, Mr. James expressed that houses are in the works of being integrated into the structure of field days and the way community meetings are organized. For example, instead of having school-wide community meetings, houses will split off into different rooms in the school, such as the Multipurpose Room. 

When asked what drove the emergence of the house system, Dana Foote, the high school’s student and family coordinator, responded, “Here at Grace we really value the pedagogy of Joy… It’s real.”

“It’s important to have a balance,” Ms. Foote added, “as we have a lot of academic rigor here at Grace, but we also really need to have fun. I feel connected to that part of Grace.” Ms. Foote reminisced about her own high school years, wishing she had a similar experience. 

Even though the house system seems better suited in the setting of a Harry Potter book, according to Mr. James, there was a sincere desire among students to interact with students from different grades outside of opportunities like sports. This wish was supported by the senior exit interviews and general, informal student feedback. Thus, the house system brings a methodical and structured approach to facilitating students in building connections across grades through competitive interaction. 

Furthermore, in order to address the found irony in the “houses”, Ms. Foote has confessed that she believes, “it is what it’s really based off of …” referring to the house system which Hogwarts is run through. However, there seems to be a conscious effort to steer away from a Slytherin-like culture in our school.

This unavoidable link between the four houses of Hogwarts Academy and the four houses in Grace Church High School is what led the administration to want to name the houses after animals native to New York. 

Nevertheless, there were certain animals that Ms. Foote deemed simply unacceptable. She said, “I am absolutely, 100 hundred percent opposed to any house being named R-A-T or Cockroach.” She was unable to even say the word “rat” due to an intense fear of the animal. 

The house system will work to unify the high school by steering away from the conventional division of high school students across the four grades. Thus, whether you are a pigeon or falcon, the house system will allow students to let go and find ways to connect with parts of our community over fun. 

“Sometimes a little bit of competition can provide this,” Ms. Foote added. 

Let’s not fear our competitive side, as it may nurture the Graceful spirit of our community. 

Elif Caliskan ‘25 is a staff writer for The Gazette.