Martin Middle Builds Culture with House System

Martin Middle Strengthens School Culture with Implementation of 'House System'
Posted on 10/05/2023
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Martin Middle School has four ‘houses’ under one roof this school year – but one big family.

The school has instituted an initiative called the RCA House System, a program originally created by the Ron Clark Academy. The goal of the house system is to build school culture. Faculty and staff award students with points for showing good character, academic achievement, school spirit, kind efforts, and many other areas of student participation and engagement.

Everyone in the school has been assigned to one of the four houses, including every student and member of the faculty, staff, and administration.

Kristy Shumake, Algebra and Math Teacher at Martin Middle, is the school’s coordinator of the house program. She is also a member of house ‘Amistad.’

“Thanks to the Charger Foundation, several of our teachers attended the Ron Clark Academy [RCA] a couple of years ago. There were a lot of great takeaways from that event and the house system is one of them. After a lot of planning and conceptualizing how we could make it work here, we kicked it off in earnest this year. It has been a team effort that couldn't have happened without the hard work of Becky Mullins, Jamie Gallimore, Gracie Weiss, Kelsey Quinn, Aaron Knott, Monica Collins, and Stacey Baker. The whole school is represented within four houses: Altruismo, Amistad, Isibindi, and Rêveur. I think it’s safe to say that everyone is really enjoying it,” said Shumake.

four Martin Middle students stand in front of their house banners as described in the story

Blue Banner, Reveur -  Te’Kia Taylor; Black Banner, Altruismo -  Gabe Mullins; Green Banner, Isibindi -  Tayler Bray; Red Banner, Amistad - Emma Doli

According to the RCA House System framework, each house has unique properties such as its own crest, color, symbols, nation of heritage, hand signal, history, virtue affiliation, and more. Over time, each house takes on its own values and personality driven by the culture of the students and staff within it. Altruismo, Portuguese for “the givers,” holds the house virtue of giving. Amistad, the Spanish word for “friendship,” is appropriately known as the “house of friendship.” Isibindi’s principle is “courage,” which is the English translation of the Zulu word. Rêveur is the “house of dreamers,” and is French for “dreamers” and “idealists.”

A leaderboard is displayed on various TV screens throughout the school. When students are awarded points, the teacher who awarded the points enters them into the system’s tracking application. So, when a student earns points, their house earns those points, too.

According to the simultaneous agreement of four students who are members of each house in the school, the school-wide initiative has enhanced the school’s culture in a big way.

“I like it because when you participate in class, it can help you to earn points for your house,” said Emma Doli, an 8th grader in house Amistad.

“It feels good to be recognized by your teacher when you are working hard,” said Te’Kia Taylor, an 8th grader in house Rêveur. “You don’t necessarily get your name on the leaderboard every day, so it’s exciting when you do. I’m encouraging students that I didn’t know before, but they are in my house so we’re supporting and getting to know each other. There are a lot more of us who are investing in school and paying attention in class to earn points. Now it’s like they suddenly realize how cool the class actually is, and they are participating more. That’s very different from last year,” Taylor concluded.

“I’ve noticed that there’s an increase in the number of students who are involved in an event we have at our school each month called Fun Friday,” said Gabe Mullins, 8th grader in house Altruismo. “You get to participate in Fun Friday if you’ve finished your work and had good behavior. I think the house system has made an impact on it.”

Tayler Bray, an 8th grader in house Isibindi, said that the house system gives students a sense of belonging.

“The house system has a huge positive impact on our school. I am getting to know teachers and students who I don’t have in class, but they are in my house, so we support each other. It’s noticeable that students have better behavior and are being more helpful and active in class. Some students are coming out of their shell to enjoy the friendly, fun competition. Overall, I believe that it’s helping students to be their best selves,” stated Bray.

A special end-of-the-school-year field trip is in the works for the house that earns the most points.

Kristy Shumake smiles in front of a TV screen that holds leaderboard info about the MMS house system
Kristy Shumake, Martin Middle School teacher and one of the coordinators of the House Program

Principal John Lifsey, member of house Rêveur, sees good things happening at Martin Middle.

“The students who haven’t been as involved in other extra-curricular activities now feel like they belong to something,” Lifsey said. “Every member of a house is as important as every other member, and I think it has made a change in how many of our students are motivated to work hard and participate. We’re excited and we think the culture of our school is moving in the right direction.”

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