In the midst of yearbook distribution, final sales, and yearbook signing parties, it may be hard to envision the start of a new yearbook cycle.
In the midst of yearbook distribution, final sales, and yearbook signing parties, it may be hard to envision the start of a new yearbook cycle. As a yearbook adviser, I actually found that in these moments my mind was bursting with ideas for the next yearbook and its future team. And although class lists for the next school year were far from being complete, I usually had a good idea of a core set of students who were either returning to the yearbook class or newbies who were interested in joining. Through my tenure as a yearbook adviser I discovered that this core set of students would become an invaluable resource in both starting the work of the yearbook and continuing the work through to create a successful product. Moreover, I believed equipping these students with meaningful skills to start Day One, initiating a culture of responsibility, providing the framework of support necessary to ensure a sound student leadership cadre, and building incredible peer relationship fruit. So, a good portion of my ‘next-year-teacher-preparation-mentality’ for the yearbook class was spent in designing and organizing a welcoming and efficient before the start of school half day workshop for this vital group of students.
And although class lists for the next school year were far from being complete, I usually had a good idea of a core set of students who were either returning to the yearbook class or newbies who were interested in joining.
Needless to say, the first time I pitched this idea to my administration I needed to learn what kind of approvals were required for building use like, camera equipment inventory and checkout, technology support, and food service or orders. The summer workshop also involved the school calendar, maintenance schedules, and parent permission letters and forms. Once all the administrative approvals were met, the actual design of the workshop–down to the minute–needed to be presented for approval. A copy was filed with the Dean of Students. It's important to make sure every administrative detail is met. Having an administrative partner was most helpful; in many cases this turned out to be an administrative secretary with whom I’d previously made a good working relationship. Once the workshop was on the administration’s radar, and I knew what needed for approval, each of the successive summer workshops were easily approved.
The summer workshop also involved the school calendar, maintenance schedules, and parent permission letters and forms.
Now, as to the design and organization of the half day workshop…
There seemed to be three major components for the workshop: Getting to know each other, Getting to know what the work is, and Understanding how the work is done.
Getting to know each other:
As with any first time group activity, ice breakers are important and can be fun. But getting to know each other in this context goes a bit deeper. For many of the students in the yearbook class, this will be the first time they will risk creating something public and permanent. A yearbook is not easily erased–certainly not with a click of a button. People will buy what they create. People will judge what they create. Mom and Dad are not going to bail them out. Unlike any other class in school, a yearbook staff needs to learn to stand together as a team. The getting-to-know-you activities for the summer workshop should start to underscore this fellowship dynamic.
The work for the yearbook is based on Student Voice, Shared Mission & Vision, and Shared Decision-Making. I created time during the summer workshop for each of these ideas to be understood and expressed in some form knowing that these ideas would be covered in more detail during the first weeks of school. Shared Value Activities are good ways to gain insights into better understanding each other. Click here for a Common Sense Understanding Our Personal Values Activity.
Getting to know what the work is:
During my summer workshops I had as many past yearbooks as possible so that we could deconstruct a yearbook together. We deconstructed general concepts like purpose and intent, structure and appearance, and audience. Creating a game or competition like a scavenger hunt, points on a board, Bingo, etc. with prizes awarded (from Dollar stores) can be a fun way to both introduce and reinforce general yearbook concepts.
From general concepts we moved into a more specific conversation regarding the kinds of events that are covered and our knowledge about them. We moved to the first 2 weeks of school with planners (I got advanced copies for my students) and created a working schedule for specific events to be covered by someone. I recorded this both in the planners and on the class’s whiteboard. This section of the summer workshop included sessions on, cameras and permission forms for student signout, how to operate the cameras, introducing beginning photography basics, practice photographing the campus, and uploading photographs to an online system like Google Drive.
The first days of school are essential to the beginning of the yearbook. Having a yearbook staff that is organized, prepared and ready to go eliminates a lot of stress that comes with the beginning of any school year.
Understanding how the work is done:
The deconstruction of the yearbook inspired an intentional discussion about the kinds of partnerships and communication necessary in order for the book to succeed. Again, we usually began with broad strokes, naming as many people across the school and campus the yearbook would need in some capacity. We talked about communication styles, formal and informal settings, Social Media and emails. We gradually laid out the yearbook staff’s responsibilities.
Group work in a classroom doesn’t play out well sometimes. Some individuals do little to no work while others carry the weight for many. However, the notion of a tightly knit team is not only one that students understand but also one that furthers their grasp that there is real need for leadership among team members. Through our discussions, we recognized that a team spirit needed to be cultivated across the entire yearbook staff, and each team member needed to have specific responsibilities within the team. In turn, the team held each member accountable.
We spent quality time describing the characteristics necessary for strong peer leaders and created job descriptions.
Inevitably, a Hierarchy of Responsibility was established. Every year, without exception, each yearbook staff listed and defined the kinds of jobs they expected to be integral parts of the yearbook’s student leadership. We spent quality time describing the characteristics necessary for strong peer leaders and created job descriptions. The job titles and descriptions were then presented to the new yearbook class and modified as needed.
We also formulated a potential selection process, which varied depending on how many students I had and how many roles were needed. This was presented to the yearbook class for revision if necessary. My student leadership and the entire yearbook staff determined their own processes for the work and the methodology through which they’d all be held accountable. The summer workshop was always the beginning of this process.
Remember to share a meal together; I made the meals enjoyable for students. I scheduled a lunch and invited an administrator to give a pep talk. I gamified as much content as I could–kids love prizes, even silly ones. My workshops began at 8:30-11:30 a.m. with two 10 minute breaks. Snacks are great during breaks. Lunch began at 11:30 a.m. and ended at noon. It was a busy morning.
So, as busy as these final days of the school year are, looking ahead to care for those students who will bring the next yearbook to life is well worth the investment.
Thank you for letting me share what worked for me. If you need anything, please reach out. United Yearbook Printing is at your service.
Lucy McHugh, Yearbook Leadership Mentor
Lucy comes to United Yearbook Printing via a 38-year career in public and private school education. She was a former yearbook adviser at Xavier College Preparatory High School. She earned 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 taught K-12 Art and was awarded the 2001 Nebraska Art Teacher of the Year, and in 2010 she was awarded Nebraska Elementary Art Teacher of the Year. Most recently Lucy was awarded the 2017 CA High School Art Teacher of the Year.