This is the time many yearbook advisers have one foot on the path of “Yes, I can do this,” and the other on the slippery slope of “I’m overwhelmed!” There is no getting around it; the first nine weeks of school are challenging! If you are new to teaching a yearbook class or advising a yearbook club, there may be so many “What am I doing?” moments that you struggle to maintain your footing. You are sure you are about to fall headlong down that slippery slope.
Here are some surefooted practices that may help you manage your balance.
The old adage, many hands make light work, is true!
Be On the Look For Help…And Ask For It!
Make a list of the kinds of support outside of your staff that would be most beneficial. For any upcoming late or overnight work sessions, colleagues of both genders might be needed. For those shared meals and scheduled afternoon work session snacks, parents may be just the resource you need. If you can get a few parents interested, maybe they can become the yearbook booster club! To review student portraits, matching faces to names and check spelling, someone with registrar responsibilities would be perfect. If you need information from coaches, ask the Athletic Director for some time at a coaches meeting where members can attend and make requests. After section and chief editors have completed the review copy, have students recommend and invite their favorite writing teachers to provide support editing. Students enjoy knowing teachers care about the work they are doing. Distribute the support editing among a few colleagues. It will be appreciated. The old adage, many hands make light work, is true!
Share with your staff your commitment to learning alongside them
When faced with what seems to be an overwhelming task, take the time to break down the task into smaller components. Isolate the skills, knowledge and processes needed to accomplish each of the smaller components. Equip yourself with an understanding of that knowledge and practice the skills and processes as you need to so that you authentically teach your students. One of the skills I perfected was quick-on-the-fly online searches for tutorials to find out how some software tools worked, or for work-arounds for when they inevitably didn’t. Share with your staff your commitment to learning alongside them, and be willing to learn from them, too. I purposefully created opportunities for my students to teach me with, “Who knows how to…” Everyone can be an expert. In a class like the yearbook class, where everyone’s ideas are valued, there is always room for another expert who wants to share and lift the group up.
Allow Your Student Leadership to Lead!
It is essential that your yearbook staff leaders truly have that responsibility. The adviser is the facilitator or the project manager, if you will. The scope of the adviser is oversight of the project, interceding only when student leadership or the processes they put in place need intervention. Teaching is still happening with learning activities and assessments, small group collaborations, one-to-one assistance, and supervising staff leaving class for photoshoots, interviews, or countless other assignments. Student leadership, properly in-serviced with leadership skills and strategies, can do the work their job titles describe. Make time to offer leadership training. Conduct weekly meetings to review the past week’s work and to gain an overview of the work for the week ahead. This creates a supportive framework for your team. Yearbook leadership will need that framework in order to successfully fulfill their commitments.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with reassessing, rethinking and reframing processes, ideas or content.
Don’t Be Afraid to Push the Reset Button!
If for some reason, things aren’t going the way you anticipate, don’t be afraid to push that reset button. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reassessing, rethinking and reframing processes, ideas or content. In fact, the ladder, one of the most critical organizing tools in a yearbook class, is meant to be a flexible tool–subject to change. If your student leadership requires change at semester’s end or even at mid-semester–be open to it. If staff members feel strongly about a position concerning content, support their efforts to have their voices heard by using the procedures the school has in place. Settling disputes, putting out tech fires and managing the sometimes prickly student personalities–especially around exam time–requires honesty, flexibility and a respectful attitude. Those are important things to teach your students, too. Reset your classroom whenever you need to maintain harmony and continue to create space for collaborative creativity.
Lean into Your Administration!
In many schools, the administration divides the faculty so that the principal, and any assistant or vice principal, have specific teachers for which they are responsible. And sometimes school administration assigns curricular areas to specific administrators. Whichever manner the responsibility of the yearbook has been assigned, find out who your administrator is and make a meeting as soon as possible at the beginning of the school year. Ask your administrator how they want to be involved in the yearbook making process. Ask if they’d be willing to come into the class for a Q&A on the school/district’s yearbook policies. Administrators might enjoy the invitation to come back into the classroom. It also creates a bridge from yearbook staffers to the administration.
Understand that you will have a book come spring!
You and your staff may not have a book, yet. But you will. Breathe! Teach your students stress management techniques that can be practiced individually or as a class. Create a ‘retreat’ in the classroom for students who may need a more calm, restorative space. Keep an eye on the class’s pulse. Create moments for laughter and sharing stories. A shared meal, however humble, is always a good place to continue cultivating that sense of family–that sense of we’re in this together, and we’ve got each other’s backs. Believe in each other’s ability to create ‘the book.’ It will come!
Remember, United Yearbook accompanies you and your yearbook staff in many ways. We help keep you in balance and surefooted with our 3 Instructional Posters series (Photography, Cover Case Design and Writing Captions), Curriculum & Resources instructional guides with presentations, Customized Treatments to bring your staffs’ creative ideas to life, and Workshop Sessions for anything from learning the PLIC Books software platform to Writing Captions, Building Teams and Leveling Up Photography Skills. Contact us. We are ready 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.