You may be thinking about your staff for next year, or maybe you've been too busy to think about next year's staff while in the midst of yearbook deadlines. Here are intentional steps to take for retaining current staff and recruiting new ones.
Utilize Check-ins with your Staff:
When it comes to retention, it has a lot to do with how you communicate with the staff you already know well. Do frequent check-ins. They can be one-on-one, even if it's only a few minutes. In December, follow up with your individual staff members to see how they are dealing with the workload they have been given. Your purpose is not only retention but to gauge how each student is handling their work and how they feel about it overall. You’ll get a sense of where they are, what they’re enjoying, what they're struggling with. After the yearbook is finished, ask again. See what struggles they faced, what they think they could have done differently, explore any conflict they faced. This is also a strategic opportunity to meet with students and compliment their areas of growth. Share the vision for a different position in the next year in which you think they would flourish. There may be students who don’t feel comfortable sharing these struggles directly with an adviser; this is where student leadership comes in! Have your student leaders reach out to those students to get that gauge, and of course, check in with those leaders. Students want to feel seen and understood, that their voices do have an impact! Create a safe space to share with one another because this will open the opportunity and give capacity for students' voices to be heard.
Reflect on Feedback as a Team:
After checking in, it’s important to be proactive and reflect upon your own lessons. Take all of this feedback and address it as a team. Something similar to this: “We really struggle with this. I think this is a weakness. I would like to change this for next year. What do you guys think about that?” You are giving your staff the space to give advice. Ask them what they think would make the yearbook better next year. Ask them some of the group's strengths and weaknesses. If you're asking for their help to build a better yearbook team, it shows that you value their opinions. In doing this, you show them that they have something to work toward the next year. In our blog last week we talked all about celebrating students which is another integral part of retention. To read that blog, click here.
Connect with Teachers:
When it comes to recruiting new staff members, there are targeted approaches to reaching out to students over making generalized announcements to promote the yearbook. Reach out to English teachers, ASB, art teachers, counselors, etc. Ask teachers their opinions of who they think are the good communicators, good writers, and those who would fit certain positions. Maybe some art teachers will give you insight on some strong graphic designers. This approach will help you find specific individuals who will elevate your yearbook staff. Oftentimes, student responsibilities can overlap. ASB students may have a lot on their plate already, but you can appeal to them to be a part of your team by showing them the areas/events they are already committed to. Do not forget your staff members! They are the eyes and ears of the school. They can give you suggestions of skilled peers they think would be a match.
Making Connections with Prospective Staff:
Now that you have a list of bright students that you'd like to have on the yearbook staff, what do you do next? Make the students feel special! Reach out to their teachers and ask if a student (from the list) could meet with you just five minutes before their class ends. The student will feel special because they are taken out of class to come meet with you. Give them a brief, one minute yearbook pitch. Talk to them about what their teacher sees in them and why they would be a wonderful addition to the yearbook team. That student will love that their strengths are appreciated, and you’ll be forming a solid, strong foundation with them before they even make their decision.
Have an Interest Meeting:
Another impactful way to recruit is to have an interest meeting. Ask different staff members to give testimonials. Prepare and show a PowerPoint with different page spreads. This is your space to cast your vision. My approach was to show students a blank proof of the yearbook. I would cover it up and tell them, “Since you came to the meeting today, I would like to give you a sneak peek of the next yearbook because I have it right here.”And they’d be confused. How could next year's yearbook be ready? And then I’d show them the blank proof. “It's 360 blank pages and your job is to fill it with memories, with stories, and amazing photos.” I’d show the before and after and tell students they could help build the yearbook. I expressed that it was not going to be easy, but it would be worth it.
Explain to students that the yearbook will stay in a family for 30, 40, 50 years. Students will help build something that people will keep for generations to come to show their kids; they’re building something that lasts!
Contributor: Joon Kim is starting his 29th year as a public school teacher. For the first ten years, he taught English at Bellflower High School, and for the past 18 years, he has been teaching Graphic Design, Video Production, Photography, Yearbook and Journalism at Garden Grove High School. He received his B.A. in English from UC Irvine in 1991 and while his formal education ended then, he is always learning, sharing, growing, and mentoring.