by Amanda Lee and Regina Marie Lee
Every Rafflesian is defined by an assortment of affiliations, amongst which House is the very first. Upon entering the school, Rafflesians are sorted into the 5 Houses. The mechanics behind the sorting will always be a mystery – could it be by personality (like that of the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter) or simply by chance? It is probably a combination of factors, such as one’s attributes that result in one being in a particular Year 1 class, such as being a Sports DSA student, and random selection, especially for students entering through the Junior College Admissions Exercise (JAE). Nevertheless, each House has a mix of people from diverse backgrounds, who come together to build defining identities despite their differences.
Perhaps House is like a family religion, where Rafflesians are ‘born’ into their houses not by choice, and typically subscribe to House enthusiasm as young members of the Rafflesian community. As they mature, some may grow stronger in their commitment to House, while others may grow cynical and reject the hype about House. Most develop a placid disposition towards House – where one is not terribly excited about House events, but can be persuaded to take part if needed.
How then, can Houses construct a common identity and nurture a House culture, with such odds seemingly against their favour? Can it be said that our Houses have been successful in crafting a unique culture that sets the various Houses apart? We ask our House Captains of 2012.
A key event where the foundations of House spirit are firmed up is Orientation. For it is during Orientation, when we meet our Orientation Groups (OGs) and Orientation Group Leaders (OGLs) that we first interact with people from our House. Indeed, Orientation provides the platform for the House Directorate (House D) to reach out to new House members and build the house spirit. Starting with House Hour, House Ds impart House cheers and an oral history of the house, with an emphasis on tradition. War games later on in Orientation allow Houses to forge team spirit, with OGLs playing an important role in “demonstrating values (of the house) during activities”, so “juniors follow after and embrace this identity” as Eugene Phua, Moor-Tarbet House Captain explains.
This introduction to House does not end with Orientation, for Inter-House Competitions come along, and House Ds encourage house members to participate in events together. Tan Yuan Rong, Morrison-Richardson House Captain feels this is when House Ds continue to reinforce House spirit, such as in MR, where participants were reminded “that ultimately, it is not about winning, but it is about the experiences and friendships gained during the process”, which is what MR spirit is all about. Other events such as Take 5, House CIP and House Parties serve to let House members mingle together, and House identity is ultimately, “built through interaction”, says Seah Ernxu, House Captain of Buckle-Buckley.
That said, even as House spirit is established during Orientation, what makes those of the various Houses different from each other? House spirit is fundamentally the attitude each House adopts to face the battle of winning the House Trophy. How divergent can these be? And perhaps the more pertinent question would be: which attitude best energises a House to build up a legacy of being the winning House? Our BB House Captain believes that “what makes BBians really unique is a spirit of playing hard, together and most importantly, playing fair.” MTians have the “enthusiasm and passion”, as seen in how they “never fail to win any spamming event”, such as IHC Photography this year, where MT was represented by a total of 12 teams. As for MR, they “might not always be the winning house” but “will always be the friendliest house”, and “ultimately, just have fun”, like in non-conventional IHCs such as Bookquest and Flingstones, said Yuan Rong. From Bayley-Waddle, House Captain Shawn Tan admits that “the seniors from before have had this crazy, competitive attitude since a long time ago” and “it really is due to the spirit of going all out”.
Taken together, these various claims can seem a tad idealistic. Perhaps it is due to the nature of our institution, where students only stay for two years, and the members of a House are constantly changing, that makes House cultures so flexible and hard to define. Nevertheless, Shawn believes that “every batch adds a new facet” to the House’s identity, and “that’s why the house system works; every batch can leave its legacy and that’s something worth doing.” Perhaps Houses may not be strictly unique and all that different from each other, but they primarily provide an avenue for each batch that enters the House to craft their own batch culture.
Yet, as the school year trudges on and memories of Orientation begin to fade, does House have a future in the hearts of students, who may have found a similar sense of belonging in their classes, CCAs and other student groups? Our House Captains beg to disagree. Shawn explains that because House allows its members to have “undefined roles”, a lack of a compulsory element to participate, that makes it “a place to have fun and really give your all”. Because participating in House events is non-obligatory, there is indeed a sense of freedom to have fun which one may not find in other activities.
“House provides you with a sense of belonging even before you have a class or join a CCA”, said Yuan Rong. MT House Captain Eugene agreed. “It’s still the place where it all starts.” “All student groups are ultimately building blocks for school spirit”, said Ernxu. “Be it a CCA, House or class, all of these contribute towards pride for a greater ideal called Raffles.” Yuan Rong says it best: “Five Houses, One Home.”