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Adapting to the Unexpected: Navigating Changes in the Yearbook

Image showcases a three different yearbook page spreads.
Change occurs frequently without warning.

The school year is fully alive and anything but static! If there is one dependable component of life, it is change. Change occurs frequently without warning. The unexpected becomes real, and you must be prepared. You have to keep your eye on the target and your ear to the ground to notice the kinds of changes taking place, and where to make sure those changes make it into the yearbook.

An example of this fluidity can be found in the Sports section in one of my former school's more recent yearbooks. The yearbook staff had the section completely planned based on the map the Athletic Director provided and according to the school calendar. However, we did not consider that students would want new team sports. This was the year our school decided to incorporate beach volleyball into school sports, and we had to develop a page spread. The same can happen to a club. There are more of them one year and less the next. And often new clubs arise during the year as a response to a socio-political movement or newfound shared interests that spring to life. You must prepare for the minimum amount of pages set aside for clubs but leave room to expand if necessary.


Everyone is busy, so the Athletic Director may forget to mention new sports are starting up, or a teacher may not remember to tell you that the students have started a new club. My staff and particular members of my staff, i.e. the social media liaison, kept us as 'in the know' as possible. Even still, during class, these questions were asked on the regular: Are there any other new sports starting up? What do you see happening around the school? Have you heard students talk about a new club? If there were new developments across campus that deserved space in the yearbook, we looked at the ladder to find where to incorporate the new, expand what we had, or combine stories and layouts to add more space. Most likely you cannot add pages and must work within the confines of the page count your contract specifies. It is time to crop or build. 

An additional way to systemize "taking the temperature" of the school is through student leadership weekly meetings. If you have created a culture wherein the staff and leadership keep their eyes open and their ears to the ground, making that a part of the agenda for these meetings, and spending time listening about what's up around the school may prove fruitful. Don't forget to ask colleagues, staff members, and administration for their valuable input about any news your staff may have missed. Keep an eye on the newspaper for insight into clubs and sports. Ask your social media staff member to peruse the school's social media account and look for significant news and updates.

Be prepared! Be flexible! You must be ready to make room for any scenario.

Another issue to remember is current events and their effect on the school body. Who would have believed Covid would cause so much change and trauma? There could be any number of situations: natural disasters, weather events, or personal events in families or within the community that could require attention and space in the yearbook. Any news event, local or international, may impact campus life. Be prepared! Be flexible! You must be ready to make room for any scenario, including the possibility of a spread to memorialize someone who may pass away during the year. Or, on a lighter note, to cover a feast or holiday celebration of international students in the school. Again, plan for the unexpected. 

In coordination with unexpected changes and events, there must be a place for the ordinary. If there are no unexpected events and you have extra pages, how will you fill them? Spotlight interviews make impressive fillers. These unique interviews tell the story of the "whole" school, not just specifically students. Your canvas is open to the stories of a faculty member, staff member, or even alumni. Select people who aren't usually noticed. Allow the space for people to tell their story, and for you to fully record it. But don't wait. Start at the beginning of the school year. Assign staff to complete these interviews and prepare them for the potential empty places in the book. 

When you have collected the spotlight interviews and determined you do not need to fill pages, there is still a purpose for these beautiful exposes. Reduce their print size, and consolidate the text to a few quotes to place in the modules at the bottom of class photographs, or faculty and staff photos. Boost the narrative, and improve the layout with spotlights. 

Another yearbook space that may require flexibility are the Senior Section and the onboarding or orientation of the Freshmen Class. These usually have more personal, unique layouts for the year. Be aware of how the seniors want their graduating class to tell their stories, to say thank you and goodbye. They’ll most likely have the typical Senior spreads, but they may also desire unique and personal spreads to tell their class story. Similarly, be sensitive to the Freshmen for they need to feel welcomed. You may need to change your original thoughts and plans as the year evolves. 

Remind your kids to not be afraid to ask for help.

A reminder, the book should be finished two weeks before the drop-dead deadline from your publisher. In those two weeks, you should have enough time to review the book in its entirety with your staff. Remind your kids to not be afraid to ask for help. The smartest thing to do when facing a problem is to get more people involved to help solve it. More heads are better than one. As the adviser, keep a calm demeanor and reassure the students they have got this. They will follow your lead. 

United Yearbook offers resources, curriculum, and on-site workshops on this and other topics. To learn more, contact us at or visit our website at

Copyright © 2024. TSE Worldwide Press. All Rights Reserved.

Former yearbook adviser, Lucy McHugh.

Contributor: Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing from a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former visual art teacher and yearbook adviser. She received a Bachelors of Science in Art from Columbia College in Columbia, SC, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000, and in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy enjoys her family, making art and gardening.

Article editor, Donna Ladner.

Editor: Donna Ladner obtained a B.A. in Education and a minor in English from California Baptist University, and a M.S. in ESL from USC, Los Angeles. After she married Daniel, their family moved to Indonesia with a non-profit organization and lived cross-culturally for 15 years before returning to the U.S in 2012. Donna has been working as an editor and proofreader for TSE Worldwide Press and its subsidiary, United Yearbook since 2015.

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