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12-19-19 — Indian Trail 'Houses' Begin with Seventh Grade

Dec. 19, 2019 ~ An important part of being successful in school is the sense of belonging to a group of people who support your efforts, encourage you through the rough patches, and cheer for your accomplishments. The “house” system at Indian Trail Middle School provides all of those features for seventh-grade students.

The house system began at Indian Trail after Blue Team teachers Jordan Billings, Clint Daniels, Kelli Svatos and Jeremi Wonch won a contest to attend the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. The academy is an actual middle school as well as a place for educators to observe best practices and attend workshops.

“We took away several things from the academy and tried to incorporate them into our school,” Billings said. “I saw the importance of creating a supportive atmosphere for students and staff. Students and staff who feel supported and are willing to work hard can move mountains!”

Although Indian Trail started slowly with just the seventh grade, leaders hope to expand it to all grades next year. During an assembly, seventh-graders’ names were drawn from the Cougar Cauldron to determine which house they would join. One by one they walked on a red carpet past a yearbook photographer snapping pictures, slid down a huge inflatable slide, and joined their cheering housemates.

Each house has a specific focus, color, crest and history established by the Ron Clark Academy. There’s the house of giving (Altruismo) and the house of friendship (Amistad), as well as the house of courage (Isibindi), and house of dreamers (Rêveur).

“Each house represents qualities we want our students to embody,” Billings said. “Our vision is for the house system to go beyond standard middle school teams and encompass the entire school.”

“The house system and teams have similarities with building a positive climate and culture for students and staff, however the biggest benefits are the sense of belonging and positive behavior incentives the house system embodies,” Principal Elizabeth Holland added.

By using the houses, seventh-grade teachers hope students will form new friendships that will encourage them to perform better. Students will earn points for their personal accomplishments with grades or behavior, and those points help the house in its quest to claim a weekly traveling trophy.

“If we can get students to care and feel confident, then the whole atmosphere is positive in the entire building,” Billings said. “We are sharing these ideas through our Indian Trail Essential 20, which is a list of guidelines that show students what our expectations are in and out of the classroom.”