Door dec, door tag, name tag….whatever you call it, the task of welcoming residents to their new home by placing their name on their room door can be a challenge for staff. Even the most creative RA burns out with new and cool ideas for their residents. If you ask an RA, they will probably tell you that the primary goal of a door tag is make it cool enough so that the residents don’t rip it down! Although this is not always achievable, this basic RA responsibility should be taken seriously but not have you tearing your hair out at the same time. After all, here is an entire article on the subject!
My main suggestion is to have fun with it. Regardless of the students you have in your area, a door tag identifies the members of the community. Your approach is an individual one. You can use a theme of interest, such as a cartoon character, commercial slogan, or movie. This door tag could also correlate with your bulletin board, having an entire theme to your hall or area. For those of you working at places where building themes are in place, you are a step ahead! You just need to pick out your favorite part of the theme and use that. The computer is a great way to go for those of you less inclined to be artistic. Graphics and fonts are abundant in your computer, so Door Tag design can be easy.
Some staff are required to do more than one set of door tags per semester-the most obvious step is to go with the seasons and holidays, as long as you are being sensitive to each member of your floor. Putting a Christmas tree or Easter Bunny Door Tag on a door of a student who is of the Jewish faith might say that says that you do not know your residents well or care about their beliefs! Always choose the less controversial design so you do not alienate your residents or make them uncomfortable.
When first year students enter the hall and see their name on their room doors, it may be the first moment that they realize they belong to something else, something new. Walking down the hall those first few days and seeing the names of the other community members is a passive way to break down the social barrier. Having residents make their own Door Tag is a great programming idea and the self-expression only enhances the opportunity of getting to know one another better.
You don’t have to be an artist, spend a great deal of money or spend 20 endless hours on Door Tags for them to serve their purpose. I have my very first door tag from my first year in college. It is actually on the first page of my college scrapbook. It symbolizes that new era in my life and where it began in Klein Hall. That may be a little sentimental for some, but the next time you are working on your Door Tags, imagine it being placed in someone’s scrapbook, preserved for years to come, reminiscent of an exciting and scary time. Think how this little piece of paper will welcome someone on his or her new journey.
The General Door Tag List of Ideas
• Cartoon Character
• Movie/TV Theme
• Movie/TV Character
• Board Games
• Video Games
• Take pictures during move-in and place the roommates pictures with their names
• Use foam board and make names 3-D
• Can anyone say paper mache?
• Press leaves with names in wax paper, cut them out and hang them up
• Have residents make their own at a floor meeting
• Finger Paints, finger paints, finger paints
• Use designer paper
• Fun shaped note pads are easy – just write on the name
By Jenn Thorpe, Director of Residence Life for First Year Experience, Widener University