By Ryan Kauffman ’20
Several days ago, as orientation came to a close, Woodberry was introduced to a new rule designed to aid the New Boys as they began to integrate into life at Woodberry. Name tags, displaying each student’s hometown, and form, are now temporarily a part of dress code. They must be worn during the academic day and at seated meal. But due to the school’s many long-standing traditions, some students aren’t keen on the new rule and are questioning the reasoning behind the new change.
One of the greatest aspects of Woodberry’s campus is the breadth of its community. While the relationships students form do not always come instantly, much of this camaraderie begins during the fall of a student’s first year. For some of the more socially inept kids, the first days on campus can be daunting. Between the rigid schedule of meetings and speeches, and trying to get along with a roommate, combined with the chaos that resides on a freshman dorm, many boys can become overwhelmed quickly. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that every time a New Boy needs to ask a question, whether it be about the daily schedule, the location of a building, or simply the dress code, they need to know who to approach.
For example, say someone walks up to you and introduces himself, and after a bit of small talk, excuses himself, and leaves. Personally, I can’t count how many times I’ve met someone for the first time, and realized halfway through the conversation that I don’t remember their name. Now, imagine meeting hundreds of teenagers (half of them looking exactly alike) and countless teachers in the span of a couple of weeks. For some boys, this is enough to make them feel a bit lost in this sea of strangers, so they end up staying in their rooms by themselves, inviting homesickness to make matters worse. That’s where the name tags come into play. A boy might feel a bit less isolated if he sees another student from his hometown, and maybe, he might feel confident enough to strike up a rapport.
So, these name tags can serve several purposes, but the main reason they are being implemented is to assist these boys to associate a name with a face. But despite the obvious benefits of the name tags, community opinions on the matter differ. Some feel that it makes introductions inauthentic.
Chase Commander ‘21 said, “I hate the name tags, I feel like it removes the raw experience of introductions…they don’t get to know you, they get to know of you, because they haven’t had a real face-to-face encounter.” Tim Pouring ‘21 adds, “I don’t mind them, but they are annoying to have on all the time. It’s just one more thing to remember in the morning.”
Others think that they aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be.
Luke Stone ‘20, a prefect on Upper Turner, says, “I don’t think they’re having as much of an impact as some people might think they are. New Boys are wearing them to classes, mostly out of obligation, but back on dorm, the kids are still asking each other their names, and acting like normal hyperactive toddlers.” Carter Krusz ‘20 believes that they are a good change. “The thing is, I think it’s easier for me to remember things if I read them, than if I’m told them.” Krusz is also an advocate of the different colored lanyards that hold the tags, which distinguish students by grade.
As a senior, I myself am more or less indifferent to the nametags. But as my schoolwork begins to take up more and more of my brain capacity, I’ve begun to slip into the daily routine that I’ve created for myself in these past three years at Woodberry. And unfortunately, my name tag is not a part of that routine, leaving me just another thing to have to forget behind in the morning, one more worry to nag at me throughout the day.
But as a New Boy, I felt it essential to immediately establish contact with Old Boys, because they had experience and first-hand accounts with just about everyone and everything on Woodberry’s campus, whereas I’d have been lucky just to know the name of my prefect. So, while I was trying to find out where the math building was, or how to do my laundry, I began to make a personal connection with the older kids, leading me to eventually remember their names. So while I don’t think the nametags are explicitly necessary, I don’t believe they pose any real harm to social relations at Woodberry or even aid them in any way. In short, they have had no real impact whatsoever, as far as I’m concerned.
Regardless of stance on the matter, the nametags won’t be staying long. Rev. Montgomery informed the students via email that the community will no longer be expected to wear them following September 13, a day which some will anticipate, and the forgetful will dread.