When walking through the hallways of R.E. Good Elementary, CFBISD’s International Baccalaureate elementary campus, visitors can expect to see students engaging in learning, working together, and being supported by staff members. Visitors will also see and hear some unexpected things such as cheering and chanting in the hallways, dancing in the classrooms, and participating in team building activities.
This is because, at Good Elementary, students and staff are participating in the Four House System, inspired by the Ron Clark Academy, to promote a culture of belonging, build a school-wide community, and encourage student leadership.
“The Four Houses idea has been growing in schools across the United States for several years, but our specific houses are taken directly from the Ron Clark Academy,” fifth-grade teacher Jordan Logan said. “Thanks to our wonderful administrators, Dr. Paredes and Mr. Trevino, a group of us had the opportunity to represent Good Elementary and travel with them to the Ron Clark Academy this past summer. We learned so much about building relationships, adding fun and rigor into the way we teach, and implementing the house system.”
Teachers and staff are combining the House System with the already existing International Baccalaureate program. Through these two programs, teachers and staff are preparing their world-changers for the future and to achieve the school’s mission, “Together with the community through inquiry and action, ALL students at R.E. Good Elementary will become life-long learners who demonstrate care and respect in their global society.”
Good’s Four Houses are Amistad, Isibindi, Reveur, and Altruismo. Each house has characteristics that make it unique - a color, symbol, sign, a country of heritage (and language), an animal that represents the house, unique traditions, and history.
“Each house begins to adopt its own values and personality, a process led by the culture of the staff and students within the house,” fourth-grade teacher Sarah Rahimi said. “Amistad is the house of friendship, Isibindi is the house of courage, Reveur is the house of the dreamers, and Altruismo is the house of the givers.”
At the start of the school year, staff members chose the house that they most resonated with, while students spun a sorting wheel to determine the house they would be placed in. Fifth graders were sorted during the summer at Gator Camp, while fourth graders were sorted when school began.
“This system is very student-centered,” Rahimi said. “This year, fourth and fifth graders will lead a majority of the work, including cheering on students in Pre-Kindergarten through third grade on sorting day.”
The program doesn’t stop with staff and students.
“Once a student is placed in a house, that house becomes their family,” Logan said. “It also becomes their family's house. The Four Houses encourages parent involvement and increases family participation.”
The House System will ultimately create a sense of belonging in the Good Gator community and a way for students to connect with students and staff in other grade levels and classes across the campus.
“The House System is a great initiative to bring a family feeling to the school, as well as pride and excitement,” Principal Dr. Agueda Paredes said. “School doesn't always need to be the same way it has always been. Students and staff at Good Elementary are #WorldChangers who belong to #FourHousesOneFamily.”