(and also help promote the Yearbook)
The Winter of our Discontent
Fall going into winter is not an easy time for your Yearbook staff. The initial excitement has worn off and as deadlines have come and gone and spreads are not anywhere near completion, there is a sense of dread and discouragement that settles over your yearbook team. On top of the yearbook stress, they have AP classes, college applications, and a dose of high school drama with which they have to contend, even as the weather gets colder and they are hit with the flu and dose of S.A.D.(Seasonal Affective Disorder).
But don’t despair. We have some tips on making this winter season not only bearable but possibly joyous and productive.
Don’t wait until your staff get overwhelmed and shut down. As you see the signs of the winter blues and waning motivation, implement these plans and strategies.
Check in on your Leaders
Everything starts with my leaders. I always need to take care of them because the Marriott Hotel’s motto is true: “Take care of your employees and your employees will take care of your customers.” Take care of your leaders and your leaders will take care of your staff. Meet with them and check how they are doing. Don’t just ask about spreads and deadlines, but take time to listen to what’s on their minds and weighing on their hearts.
Hot Chocolate on a Rainy Day
For about 10 dollars you can change the mood of your entire class. Just buy a box of hot chocolate and make it for them on a cold or rainy day. It’s a welcome, pleasant surprise for such a small gesture - they come into class soaking wet and you hand them a cup of hot chocolate. And that Costco box of hot chocolate has like 60 packets. So there’s not only enough for your YB staff but for random students as well. My yearbook class is usually during fourth period so during lunch on a rainy day, my students wanted to walk around campus and pass out hot chocolate to students looking for shelter from the rain or cold. And we let them know that we are from yearbook and we just wanted to give them a cup of hot chocolate. Afterwards, whenever I ask my yearbook staff what was better - when I made them hot chocolate or when they passed out hot chocolate to random students on campus and without fail, they always tell me it was when they gave it to others.
Holiday and Christmas Cards
As a staff, we started a tradition of making Christmas and Holiday Cards and passing them out to every faculty member. We think of unique ideas for the photo shoot and then order 150 cards or so from Costco. I then give them a list of every faculty and support personnel at our school and they each decide to whom they want to give their card. So each staff member writes a short note to that faculty member, and if we have the budget, we attach some candy cane and/or a fun size chocolate bar. Then they go deliver the cards to their selected faculty members. Our teachers usually appreciate these cards and post these cards on their walls, and my yearbook staff really get excited about this project.
Another tradition that my yearbook staff enjoy is Secret Santa. We put all the names in a bag and each person draws a name. We then each answer a few questions - our favorite colors, bands, musicians, teams, etc. so that we can give our Secret Santa some clues as to what kind of gift they should get. Then on the last day before the break, we do our gift exchange and share some food.
Operation Christmas Child/Angel Tree
Some years, instead of a gift exchange, we opted to give gifts to needy children in our community. There are many nonprofits that collect gifts for children whose parents are in prison (Angel Tree) or children whose parents may struggle financially. So each of our staff member buys a gift for children in need. We also make the shopping a group outing experience to Target. Then after shopping, we go out to eat and watch Christmas lights (again, with some hot chocolate). It’s a great bonding experience where they get to help others.
What About the Yearbook Pages?
Yes, none of these things have much to do with making yearbook pages. But these pages are not made by machines - they are made by human beings- young students who are navigating a difficult phase in their lives. These traditions can strengthen the bond of your yearbook family and they will ultimately be more committed to the team. But even if these activities and traditions don’t produce better yearbook pages, I think it’s my job as a teacher and adviser to invest in them, care for them, and help them create meaningful memories with our yearbook family.
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.