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Spinning Plates: What Needs to be Done Now!

September is a busy month for yearbook preparation, planning and execution. There is so much to accomplish all at once. Everything needs your time, attention, and effort, that it feels the same as a carnival performer running to keep all his plates turning simultaneously. It can be overwhelming. However, I found that my job as an adviser was to facilitate my staff’s response to these many tasks. My job was to track progress in these beginning days and weeks until we formed student leadership, and they, in turn, took the reins. Student leadership would take time to evolve. Often, by late October, it would take shape and begin to fully function. I made sure my staff knew I was on the lookout for student leadership qualities to emerge. Thankfully, though, it was not a top concern during these initial days.

I found that my efforts as facilitator were simplified by categorizing and defining the tasks in front of us. I formed priorities based on the most urgent needs first and then those that would take more time to complete. This also helped me plan what needed to be taught in support of each task! For example, with event coverage, I needed to organize (with the help of the staff) which events required attention and who would be responsible. In addition, basic photography skills had to be practiced and the photographs that required access needed to be stored in an organized systematic way. Therefore, I designed learning activities to a) build an ongoing process for event coverage assignments, b) designate a server space (site based or online) that stores photographs photographs and follows retrieval protocol, and c) introduce basic photography skills and provide practice. Each of these activities directly correlated and resulted in a presence in the yearbook.

From urgent to less urgent, here are the tasks and their definitions that are essential to complete in the month of September:

  • Event Coverage

    • Review the school calendar with the entire staff for significant events and their planners for any ancillary events (i.e. clubs that are forming) per week. Post those as assignments on the board by date and time. Give staff members time to self-select and write their names beside at least 2-3 assignments. This can be done while other work is being addressed. If there are some assignments not covered, staff members could add to their extra credit point bank by taking on an extra standard responsibility.

Provide basic instruction in photography. In United Yearbook’s Curriculum & Resources Instructional Guide No. 2, Yearbook Organization, an instructional presentation is included in the Intro to Photography Lesson Plan.

  • Facilitate a discussion about where and how photographs should be archived and retrieved. Decide together what kind of categorizing system should be in place for ease in retrieval of photographs. Photographs can be lost very quickly in unorganized photo dumps. Staff should also decide permissions for others who may need access. After all, the staff can’t be at every event. Parents, friends, other faculty or school staff, administrators or community members may want to contribute photographs for the success of the yearbook. This site will need a monitor. One student leadership position could be an IT position that monitors the storage of all the photographs. Correct application of the shared decisions regarding the storage of the photographs can be a regular grade for staff members.

  • Yearbook Structure & Appearance

    • The yearbook requires sharing decision-making across a range of topics. United Yearbook understands that fundamentally the yearbook is an expression of students’ voices and champions their stories. Sharing the responsibility of making decisions together decision-making about the ‘fun stuff’ like which colors to use, what the theme will be, which fonts will perform well in telling our stories, and what the cover case will look like, are incredible buy-in moments for the entire staff.

      • What To Teach:

        • In Curriculum & Resources Instructional Guide No. 1, Yearbook Basics, another learning module presentation to use with yearbook staff is called Student Investment. This presentation covers the following information and learning activities. It begins with Student Voice, as that topic is central to yearbook development. Student Voice requires full comprehension so that shared-decisions can be made with a keener understanding of who is being ultimately represented and affected by those decisions and commitments. A Mission and a Vision Statement, crafted by the staff and posted, is required prior to any decisions made on behalf of the actual yearbook.

          • Yearbook Structure is a decision that can be covered with small group discussions or a series of debates that provide the pros and cons for the different formats a yearbook can take. Staff members have to be able to identify the differences among Traditional, Chronological and Conceptual structures in order to know what will work best for their yearbook.

          • Yearbook Appearance has so many exciting possibilities it may be hard to keep staff moving toward the goal of actually making decisions. The theme of the yearbook is an important beginning step. Additional resources for teaching about yearbook appearance include: The Organized Adviser which offers a take on what a theme is in this Youtube short, What is a Yearbook Theme? This video uses the analogy of a themed birthday party to advance the concept of a yearbook theme. Abby Schukei’s 5 Exciting Ways to Teach Typography in the Art Room blog for The Art of Education University is a quick look at the power behind the shape of letters. Kris Deck’s blog The Fundamental of Understanding Color Theory for 99Designs by Vista offers, at a glance, color relationships and how those work in logos, etc. In addition to the underlying foundations for both a color palette and a family of fonts, how those relate to a theme is critical to the yearbook’s overall appearance.

          • Finally, and this is the big one, the COVER CASE! The staff needs to know what the cover case entails and how it impacts the consumer. The cover case is the lead feature of the yearbook theme; it sets the tone! Teaching the cover case’s unique qualities that will represent the school this year and the students at this time is essential to the creative content. This is listed last as it will demand time to discover. Customized treatments will be featured in this process. United Yearbook shares many of those treatments in Curriculum & Resources Instructional Guide No.1, Yearbook Basics learning module, Yearbook Vocabulary.

Yes, September is a busy month with keeping lots of plates spinning instead of crashing to the ground. United Yearbook is ready to assist you–especially with workshops tailored to your yearbook staff’s particular requirements. We can provide theme development, design work, clear and concise copywriting, and working with PLIC Books–our software platform. Our mission is to accompany our schools as they develop their yearbooks. United Yearbook will bring your creative ideas to life!

Former yearbook advisor, 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.

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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