Basil, Elmsley, Clover Hill, and Carr are just some of the celebrated names that the St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) community will be hearing much more of as the school launches a new initiative this year.
“Conversations have been circling around the school for a number of years about the concept of a House System and how it would be implemented at SMCS,” says Elizabeth Brooks, English teacher and Student Engagement Officer who is helping develop the system at SMCS.
“The goal of the House System is to promote a culture of belonging and facilitate opportunity for students to engage in school life,” she says. “This is accomplished through a variety of new school-wide events and existing programming.”
“A new student in our St. Michael’s community will have immediate membership in a House and a TAG (Teacher Advisory Group) community,” says Brooks.
Within each house are eight smaller TAG groups made up of students and faculty who meet, now virtually, on a regular basis to discuss topics on mental health, community, belonging, and more.
The smaller groups create opportunities for cross-grade student mentorship and varied interaction with different adult mentors in the building. It will also offer a student more opportunities to connect within their constellation of care.
Every student, faculty, and staff member at SMCS have been sorted into one of eight different houses: Annonay, Basil, Carr, Charbonnel, Clover Hill, Elmsley, Francis, and Moran.
“There was a concerted effort by the committee to try to encompass our vision of faith, character, and service and be mindful of our motto of teaching goodness, discipline, and knowledge from Psalm 118,” says Brooks. “They landed on names that honoured a mix of themes.”
The themes include: Notable Basilians (Charbonnel and Carr), Saints (Francis and Basil), leaders in community and Christian service (Elmsley and Moran), and notable historical places (Annonay and Clover Hill).
As the year progresses, the houses will have many more opportunities to accumulate points through a variety of activities and competitions including physically distant intramural sports, academic and chess competitions, and through the Reading Olympics. Towards the end of the year, points will be tallied for team championships.
“The advantage to having a House System at school is that there are so many opportunities for students to participate in,” says Jeremi Kolakowski, Grade 12 student and SMCS Student Government President. Kolakowski is also a member of Francis House. “With the House System, the points make the activities more fun and allow for healthy competition. Also, the activities planned include virtual events so the people at home aren’t missing out.”
“The rapid move to online learning last spring, the cancellation of all co-curricular activities, and then the realization that there was no indication to how long our world would be affected by COVID-19 provided the impetus to examine the House System more closely,” says Brooks who is a member of Carr House.
“This initiative is more important now than ever. As the health and safety of our students requires cohorting and online learning, the House System creates opportunities for fun and friendly activities, competitions, and leadership,” she says. “Virtual and in-school programming provide the students with connection and normalcy during this extraordinary time.”
One of the first house activities organized this year was an intramural house soccer league. To support physical distancing and other health and safety requirements, students and staff play a version of ‘Human Foosball’ where each player occupies their own box, versus traditional soccer.
“House Soccer (human foosball edition) has been rolling smoothly since the start of the year,” says Alex Frescura, Director of Athletics and member of Clover Hill House. “We were blessed with some great weather late into the fall and didn’t have to move indoors to the field dome until last week.”
“Every day (Monday to Thursday) we have games scheduled as directed by the cohorting model,” he says. “Students can find out which day their grade is playing in their House Edsby group. Participation is the primary way to earn points. Just showing up! The running point total is calculated by our House Software programme.”
Elections for house executives took place in November 2020. Each house selected representatives in charge of service, social, and sports.
“This offers the students 48 additional leadership positions within the school,” says Brooks. “In co-ordination with the student government, the executives will help plan, organize, and promote house activities and events. They will also support initiatives brought to them from the student government.”
“In terms of the House System activities, the student government is in charge of planning events and supporting in anyway we can,” says Kolakowski. “We meet every week to discuss events and initiatives happening around the school, and we come up with ideas that can add to the existing House System activities.”
“The most recent initiatives include a competition to raise money for the St. Vincent de Paul food drive since we are not allowed to bring in physical food for baskets this year,” says Brooks. “The Wellness team is also supporting the House System by selling house-coloured masks with this year’s slogan ‘Be Belong, Be Kind’. The masks are $5 each and the funds go to Abuse Hurts.”
“I believe that a true sense of belonging is the fundamental basis to a strong academic programme and the development of kind, committed, and compassionate adults,” she says. “I am excited about the opportunity to help develop a system that shares these core values throughout most aspects of the school.”
Learn more about the SMCS House System here.