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A Fresh Look at the Four Houses
  • Community
Emily Gilliam

I learned about The Saint Constantine School’s House system through observation, photo-journalism style. As a mom who visited campus for Parent Conference and occasional Morning Prayer, I also enjoyed volunteering to photograph Field Days. There I’d be, alone with a camera, amidst the animated antics of house members trampling grassy surrounds. War paint, drumbeats, raucous cheers. Sideline hugs, strong high-fives, stolen moments with friends in grass. Kids in trees, always.

Immersed in images of Field Days, I began to notice patterns. Photos speak for themselves. We know this; it’s why we love sharing them. You can visually see and remember what the students experience.

This year, I came on staff and found myself being sorted into a House. I had not expected this. Inwardly, I worried, “But I didn’t have time to tell anyone that I feel I’m a Saint _______ girl!” So instead, I urged myself to think like a grown-up. The Houses, brimming with creative energies, are still yet greater than a profiling system. They offer community and growth, a space of encouragement and spirit beyond the family home. I am certain that the Houses do take on distinct personalities, fashioned by their members over the years. But I told myself this was never intended to be a caricature exercise. There’s magic in it – but probably not a mind-reading hat.

In the aftermath of my Sorting Day, I shared with an established TSCS educator how I had learned to characterize the four Houses in response to what my camera proved. She offered some perspective. Mrs. Kasradze, who teaches Pre-Calculus, suggested that while the images speak truth, they also suffer influence. This camera does not swivel on a tripod; it is directed by a human hand! A photo of a student may be simply that, one student – until it is awash with yellow, green, blue, or purple, and then it encapsulates to me an entire House. My error had been making observations through the lens, and then reinforcing my notions again through the lens. I had been prejudicing myself! Because I look for emotive images, this spiral of profiling was exaggerated. Mrs. Kasradze suggested that for me to be truly neutral, perhaps black-and-white images would help. This is a smart idea which I will never implement. Give me color. And throw in some House cries!

The photos shown below are among my favorites. But yellow doesn’t always look like this, and purple won’t always look like that. The Houses are families – each with room for myriad quirks, growths, back-slips, expressions, and force. So much force!

Sorting Day 2023 gave me a favorite memory, one that is colorless. As I photographed the event, I noticed a particular new student who I knew to be finding his footing at TSCS. The prior year had brought transition, and there had been many changes all at once. Would he feel at home here? How long would it take? Optimistic yet concerned, I learned the true answer when this child’s name was called. His House was assigned. His new Housemates cheered wildly, even chanted his name. I cried.

This is belonging. This is a family of peers.

May God be pleased to bless each student, and each teacher, in each of our four stately and worthy Houses.