By this time in the school year, I already started my goals for “setting the stage for student leadership” and was actively checking them off, one by one. Each year, this checklist took on a different form: tangibly in Post-it notes, on the board, or in my lesson plans. Sometimes it was just my mental checklist that was completed in my thoughts. From year to year the number of items expanded or were modified in some way, but my intended target was for the checklist to look like the following prior to engaging my yearbook staff in student leadership:
Setting the Stage for Student Leadership
✅ Furnish daily community building activities
✅ Cultivate an understanding of journalistic ethics and integrity
✅ Freedom of Speech
✅ Freedom of the Press
✅ Journalistic Code
✅ Provide daily student voice opportunities
✅ Yearbook Staff as agents for study body voice
✅ Foster Collective shared decision making
✅ Promote deeper understanding of shared responsibilities
✅ To Peers
✅ To Greater School Community
✅ Facilitate development of a Mission Statement–who we are, what we do together, and why
✅ Facilitate development of a Vision Statement–how we get the mission done
✅ Daily develop a fuller understanding of the breadth and depth of the work of creating a yearbook
These components were ‘silent’ aspects of the yearbook curriculum–not directly linked to straightforward academic content. They were essential to inspire student ownership, peer confidence, dependability, and investment in the process of planning, designing, constructing, editing and completing the yearbook. As a teacher, my belief was always that you teach what you expect and want students to know. If I wanted students to understand what student voice was, I taught what it was–how it looked and felt in various scenarios, and what possible consequences could be derived from the exercise of both personal and collective student voice. We practiced finding and using students’ voices about issues and concerns important to the student body (many of these stories making it into the yearbook). This was how I handled all parts of the curriculum for the yearbook class, including setting a foundation for leadership prior to inviting students into leadership positions. (For more thoughts about this designed teaching strategy, please see United Yearbook blog, The Importance of Structured Learning and Intention in Teaching.)
With these fundamentals in place, I engaged students in discussion and activities around these concepts
To whom were we accountable in the designing, producing, and delivery of the yearbook?
What kinds of responsibilities are implied by being held accountable?
What is a hierarchy or responsibility and how does it work?
Once a general idea of accountability and responsibility was established, I began to introduce my staff to the concepts and practicalities of the colophon, leadership roles/positions with job descriptions, and a student leadership selection process. My staff had the final say in all decisions about leadership job titles and their job descriptions, and the process by which they’d be selected.
Using learning activities similar to those found in United Yearbook’s Curriculum & Resources No. 2, Yearbook Organization Modules, Student Leadership, I’d begin with the colophon. I introduced the definition and would ask students to look at colophon examples both in the classroom and online to find evidence of how colophons held students accountable for their work. When planning on how we’d use the colophon, I noted that in some years my students wanted a general acknowledgment of their work on the book. In other years, students went so far as to have “designed by Their Name” included around or near the page numbers on which they worked. And sometimes not only did they want page design credit on their pages, but they also wanted those page numbers attached to their names in the colophon! There was a lot of room for choice. We talked about other features in colophones like disclaimers, asking for grace for inevitable mistakes, and that job titles were also a part of the signatures and descriptions of the students on staff. The colophon was THE most important accountability report that became a permanent part of the published yearbook.
Leadership Roles/Positions with Job Descriptions
When my classes and I looked at potential leadership roles/positions, we often created a workflow chart that revealed the hierarchy of responsibility that naturally occurred within leadership. This chart indicated the progression of responsibility as the workflow progressed. My staff would look at previous yearbooks, both from the class’s library and through online searches, to discover the roles and job titles that were usual to yearbook. Staff were also tasked with finding job descriptions for each of the positions. We’d bring all our information together to determine exactly what our needs were and what specifically each job would require. Staff selections were pretty consistent from year to year with trends being towards co-leaders. Staff members seemed to consistently express the importance of sharing higher-level responsibilities. They believed the responsibilities inherent in the work of a yearbook should not rest upon the shoulders of a single Editor-at-Large. New roles emerged as staff had the knowledge and talent to pursue those, i.e. social media surfaced as Tik Tok burgeoned onto the social media scene. Another example was when student staff were particularly interested in advertising and gaining ads and leads, they would be put in charge of marketing.
In addition, the job descriptions were also very similar from year to year. It was particularly helpful to search online for other descriptions first and then provide previous years’ files for staff review. How we sorted and amended the job descriptions usually resulted in teams that looked at one position’s description. The teams merged, blended and edited ideas about their particular job description and then presented it to the class. The class would provide feedback. And then the description was complete. It was important that each year every staff undergo through this process to personalize it for their needs.
Student Leadership Selection Process
The last part of preparing for student leadership was the selection process. That was also the responsibility of the whole class. Together, they understood the need for student leadership. Together, they determined the types of leadership roles/positions they felt necessary for success of the book, and together, they clarified the responsibilities of each leadership role. Many students had experience with an application process for a particular club, team, recognition or achievement. Therefore, creating a procedure for applying for the positions was within their wheelhouse. With 2 student recorders at the board, and general questions from me at the back of the room to help clarify directions, the application process was usually quickly in place. Sometimes, the requirements were short statements of interest, and other times a more formal essay. There were always teacher recommendations–the number changed from year to year. GPAs and extracurriculars were often included as well. Interviews were always a part of the process. (I especially enjoyed when students volunteered to help with the interviews!) Once the application process plan was completed, we all looked at our planners and put dates to the process. We posted dates and formalized the process with appropriate forms. Invitations to apply were provided, and we were off!
Laying the groundwork and involving all students in the process brought success to my students in their search for leadership. They became accountable by meeting their responsibilities with integrity and confidence. United Yearbook has resources to assist you in the development of your student leaders. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or needs you may have. We are ready to serve 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.