Roll call: The importance of learning a name

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We’ve all experienced it before: sitting inside the fishbowl, anxiously participating in the conversation we prepped for the previous night. You contribute something that sounds relevant and another speaker raises their hand, eyes locked on you. You feel it. They feel it. This looks like an agreement is coming. And then it happens: “I agree with…uhhhh. I’m sorry I forgot your name. It just has to come to me… hmmm… it’s umm.. it’s…”

During remote instruction last year, students became accustomed to their screens as a replacement for their peers. Meeting fresh faces and reuniting with friends was all done via a Zoom breakout room or on social media platforms. More often than not, one was greeted with nothing but a voice and no face to associate it with. 

However, learning names at THHS has been a problem that has existed and continues to exist in both the pre- and post-era of virtual classes. THHS not being a zoned school heavily contributes to this. With students coming from all over New York City to attend this school, they might only see certain peers during one fifty minute session a day. They didn’t go to elementary school and middle school together, and if they aren’t in the same extracurriculars, they might have no need to learn everyone’s names.. 

This is why we need “The Name Game” now more than ever. 

Despite the constant use of September icebreakers by teachers, they are often awkward and anxiety-inducing. This is something almost everyone dreads on the first day of school, just thinking about what fun fact they should say for everyone else to believe they are cool. No one truly remembers these facts, nor does it lead to the individual feeling more comfortable. So why not take a more unique approach and just start class right away with heavy conversation and group work?

Learning the names of your classmates can be a segue into making new friends. The customary question we all ask when we meet someone for the first time is “What is your name?” Names are part of an individual’s identity and are the reason we are able to communicate with one another. Remembering someone’s name and using it when you meet them for a second time can build a strong foundation for a relationship, as the other person will feel respected and valued.

Within a small school environment, integration among the student body is important. Thus, a policy of changing groups for classwork for the first few weeks of school would ensure different students are acquainted with each other. It would essentially force these students to get to know the names of others and possibly form a close knit bond that can last all year. 

Not only this, but knowing the names of all of those around you makes the classroom a place of comfort. While the concept may be brushed off by teachers and considered juvenile for high school students, getting to know your peers is one of the most effective ways to achieve an ideal learning space. As students become acclimated to these environments, they would also feel more open to participating in class. Familiarity hinders fear of judgment from our classmates when sharing our thoughts in class-wide discussions. As a result, we can foster a safe space for all students to make mistakes and learn from them without shame.

A 2017 study conducted by Arizona State University revealed that students who believe their teachers know their names (even if it’s not true) are more engaged during class. With  group work, collaboration, and discussion such a large part of many classes, it’s likely that it is also important for students to know the names of their peers when it comes to learning and engagement.  

Simply acknowledging the names of our peers is recognizing their autonomy and establishing a foundation of respect, a handy tool once we transition into the workforce and begin developing professional careers and relationships. It’s also just the right thing to do.

As we settle down into new classes at the beginning of the year, we never truly realize the impact of the people who sit around us. We might begin to depend on them for certain things, or just not create as many bonds as we can. By switching seats more often at the start of the year, we would be exposed to different personalities. This would not only improve the social aspect of the lives of students, but also their learning capabilities.

The Name Game. Although it may seem like a trivial elementary school activity, it can serve as a tool that can reinforce social aptitude and engagement in classrooms. Developing the habit of learning the names of those around you may be a skill you never knew you needed.

Art by Jialin Chen, Art Editor