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It’s All Good!

A handful of students gather around a student holding up a yearbook. They all look toward the yearbook smiling.

Those weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter Break in my yearbook class were action packed. Project Management made the difference between an anxiety-ridden staff and a stressed but confident staff. United Yearbook Printing gives advisers and their staff the freedom to manage their yearbook projects individually, with the exception of the Cover Case Deadline (October), the January Signature Deadline (checking a signature prototype), and the Final Deadline in April. That can be daunting for novice advisers to organize and delegate deadlines. I found a “ladder” to be quite a useful tool in managing the work of the yearbook and tracking each individual’s responsibility. Essentially a “ladder” is a chart that details a few categories described on a whiteboard, or in a software program. In the example below, I had Spread Topic, page#even, page#odd Spread Topic, Deadline, Student Assignment, and Editor Comments. Mid-December was our first big deadline. Fully one third of our page spreads were due mid-December. Notably, the time between the Thanksgiving Break and that first deadline were chaotic to say the least.

This is an example of a ladder.  A “ladder” is a chart that details a few categories. We see here different page spreads, their deadline, and the student that is assigned to each one.

The content necessary to complete the spreads had to be accomplished. To facilitate that, my staff had lanyards with yearbook photo ids to provide entrance into classrooms or places on campus to get those shots for the page spreads that were due. I met with staff each class period to map where they would be, when they would be there, and for how long, to keep us all on track. I kept a log at my desk. Signing in and out with me was the only way to leave with a camera on an assignment. Staff had to present proof that they had communicated with any teacher whose class might be interrupted. Student leadership oversaw the content development via page spread. The ladder, again, was everyone’s key reference. We had student partnerships for which the leadership were responsible and were posted on the ladder. Student leadership triaged emergencies as those occurred. Our computers were covered with Post-It® punch list tasks. People were moving, talking, collaborating, expressing frustration, concentrating, taking 3 steps forward and stumbling 2 steps back. Many days it seemed that time didn’t exist. Time moved at warp speed.

My students created a joint Mission Statement and shared their vision to determine how the mission would be accomplished.

I know we couldn’t have done the work we did during that hectic season if we hadn’t frontloaded the class by developing a deep understanding of why the yearbook was important and for whom we were creating the yearbook. My students created a joint Mission Statement and shared their vision to determine how the mission would be accomplished. Posting those statements, the ladder, and the weekly photo event coverage assignments went a long way towards keeping us all on track. To complete the assignments in a timely productive manner, I focus on encouraging the indispensable dynamics of student relationships. Trusting my staff was a prerequisite for success, as well as accepting the controlled chaos. Weekly student leadership meetings (and to be honest, sometimes twice or three times a week) helped keep everyone grounded. I also manned the Digital Studio, the classroom where all digital art classes were taught, before and after school for students to continue working to meet those deadlines.

Layered on top of the mid-December deadlines were the weekly assignments. All assignments were positioned to amplify skills necessary for quality photography, effective layout design, good written content, and tracking the big stories. Nothing was busywork. Everything worked toward the end goal–a yearbook that was responsive to the school community and, most importantly, their peers. We had a sign in our class, REMEMBER, PEOPLE BUY OUR HOMEWORK! It was a reminder to keep us on our toes. It also served to add a layer of accountability to assignments that other classes did not have.

Once we hit the mid-December deadline, the entire staff took a class period to expressly look at the finished spreads. Then, a second class period was used to verify consistency and quality using a Google form. Student leadership met to review the forms. Decisions were made as to which needed to be rolled back to the staff member who was assigned the page spread for further development, and which were considered complete. Of the completed page spreads, 8 (two page spreads) were selected to send to United Yearbook Printing for the January Signature Deadline. With great fanfare and celebration, the 8 page spreads were shared with the entire staff. It was time to celebrate the hard work everyone had invested!

There’s much to celebrate in holding the space for some and finding balance with others.

The balance of the remaining time in class was spent reviewing the study guide and practicing for the semester final. Were there students who still needed more time to prepare? Of course, there were. As a teacher, my belief had always been that if a student was willing to come in and do the work, I was willing to provide the time and space. It would be nice if everything ended as planned on the day in the planner. But it doesn’t. I did not call those students out. They were still a genuine part of the celebration. Some students just needed that extra space. And sometimes I needed to be okay when they were providing mediocre effort. We found our balance. And the books met deadlines. There’s much to celebrate in holding the space for some and finding balance with others. It’s all good!

Thank you for letting me share some of my insights with you as you round the corner and head toward the finish line of the semester. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to United Yearbook Printing. We are always happy to assist you!

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.

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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