So you are a new yearbook adviser, or you have been advising yearbook for a year or two, and you still aren’t really sure what you have gotten yourself into. Don’t panic! I’ll walk you through what your first steps should be to make sure that your first (or fourth) year is a huge success, and you don’t lose your mind in the process.
First of all, in Yearbook, we use the more proper term “adviser,” and not “advisor.” There is a long explanation for this, but just remember when you
bemoaning bragging about your new title, you want to be as technically accurate as possible.
Secondly, there are many paths to becoming a yearbook adviser. Perhaps you were were a yearbook staff member when you were in high school. Perhaps you took on the position as a newbie teacher looking for a job. Perhaps you were asked to step in after a colleague vacated the position. Perhaps you were really looking forward to a new challenge. Either way, here you are, and you might bee feeling like Yearbook has a steep learning curve for you as a teacher.
There are many reasons that teachers do not fight over the position of yearbook adviser. Let’s be honest, there is quite a bit of extra work, and the responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders if something should go wrong. It’s a daunting task, and that is why many of your colleagues will eschew the position, if given the opportunity.
But here is why you should not listen to the naysayers in your department: being a yearbook adviser has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While it does require some extra work, I have found that being highly organized, delegating tasks to yearbook staff members, and focusing on the positives, I really do enjoy my time as an adviser.
Here are my top ten reasons to become a yearbook adviser:
- Being able to get involved with everything that happens — both on and off campus.
- Getting to work with students in ways I cannot in my English classes
- Watching my staff develop new skills and become leaders.
- Creating history.
- Getting to know all students.
- Getting to know all faculty and staff.
- Seeing all my hard work come to fruition at the end of the year.
- Seeing the student body and staff look at our hard work at the end of the year.
- It appeals to my love of organization and editing.
- It also appeals to my creative side.
Next up: How to structure your staff for best use of their skills and easiest management on your part.
I’m at the end of my third quarter, and I’m dealing with those last-minute panicked pleas about grades and make-up work and college and parents. In fact, some of those pleas come from parents themselves. This is the week when I turn from my usually laid-back, happy self into the hard-nosed, crusty, experienced teacher that I can be.
You see, I value education. I value learning, and working hard, and defining success by the effort a child puts into the process of education. Grades are less relevant that the lessons learned and the skills a student achieves in the process. Grades may be important to getting into that college of choice, but they are less important in what really matters: succeeding in life.
I value education. I value learning, and working hard, and defining success by the effort a child puts into the process of education.
Look, I’m a mom; I get it. Nobody wants to see her child fail. We worry that it will affect his future, his fragile psyche, or his ability to succeed in the future. And there are plenty of special circumstances where we need to step in to protect our children: our child is diagnosed with a learning disability, our child is seriously physically or mentally ill, there are extenuating circumstances in the family or at school affecting our child’s ability to perform well in class. These are all valid reasons to step in and advocate for your child. Additionally, if you feel that your child is being unfairly treated by a teacher or staff member at a school, then you should most certainly intervene.
However, most of the contact I have with students and parents that I have about grades involve none of these circumstances. 99% of the contact I have this final week before grades post has to do with missing work and an unwillingness to accept responsibility for one’s own actions.
Here’s the situation: Student #1 has completed all of his work during the course of the quarter. He has studied for every test and quiz, come in for extra help on writing assignments, made sure he has asked questions when he does not understand concepts or instructions.
Student #2, on the other hand, is missing a large portion of her homework and in-class assignments. She rarely reads her directions thoroughly, completes haphazard work, and, more often than not, is checked out in class. You do your best to make sure she is focused in class, to alert her and her parents to her not-so-stellar grade on many occasions, and to tell her what she can do to bring up her grade.
Can you then understand my dismay when student #2 or her parent contacts me during the last week of the quarter wondering what she can do bring her F up to an A? Often, terms such as “athlete,” “college,” or “extra credit” are dropped. Here’s the deal, and this is what truly frustrates me: I do not understand why this grade is suddenly important when it hasn’t been for the past eight weeks. Additionally, fluffing a grade or offering last-minute extra credit cheapens both my professionalism as a teacher and the experience of student #1, who honestly earned the A. It’s not going to happen.
Why this grade is suddenly important when it hasn’t been for the past eight weeks?
What is more valuable than a cheap A, or B, or C, in this case, is the lesson learned from the natural consequences of the situation. So student #2 fails, or manages, at the last minute, to pull her grade up to a credit-saving D. It’s not stellar, and it’s not going to get her into an Ivy league school that her parents have been dreaming about. What it might do is to teach her the value of hard work, and that our actions have consequences. It might create motivation within her to change. I have seen in it happen in many a student over the years.
What’s a parent to do? Be in contact with your student’s teacher early in the year. Come to open house night and conferences. Intercede early when you see that your child may be struggling. Ask questions. See if the teacher can give you clues to what is happening in class. Perhaps there is a comprehension issue or it ma simply be a refusal to complete work. Stay abreast of the grade situation; most schools have an online grading system that is updated weekly, or more often. Do not make demands of teachers that would put their professionalism into question. Last, but certainly not least, encourage your child to advocate for himself. This is especially true of high school students.
Encourage your child to advocate for himself.
Failure is a word that we like to pretend is not a part of success. But students, you are doing yourselves no favor by trying to avoid the consequences of your own actions. Parents, you do your children a disservice when you step in to protect them from the consequences of their own actions. Character is not as easy to come by, but it will take your children farther in life than an easy A.
- What was the best part of your day today?
- If you had $100, what would you do with it?
- If you could move to another state, where would you go and why?
- What’s the last thing that made you really laugh?
- Who do you respect the most and why?
- If you could have one superpower, what would you choose and why?
- Where would you like to travel?
- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?
- Who would you / will you vote for and why?
- What’s your favorite class?
- If you were a shoe, what kind of shoe would you be?
- Describe your perfect day.
- What makes you feel good about yourself?
- Teach me a slang word you like to use.
- What is your biggest pet peeve?
- What color is your mind?
- If you could be an animal, which one would you choose and why?
- If you could have 50 of one item, what would it be?
- Which song is your jam?
- What was your favorite childhood toy?
- What do you think you will be doing ten years from now?
- If you could choose any other time period to live, when would you choose and why?
- If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would you choose and why?
- Which of the four seasons is your favorite and why?
- If you were the ruler of the world, what things would you banish?
- If you could do something you have never done before, what would you do?
- What is the best thing you have ever done?
- If you could change one thing about school, what would it be?
- What is the best thing about being a boy / girl?
- What is the worst thing about being a boy / girl?
- If you had three wishes, what would they be?
- What is the most difficult things about being your age?
- How could school better prepare you to be an adult?
- If you had one week to live, what would you do?
- What is the best present someone could give you?
I advise a 400-page chronological yearbook, and we publish on a year-round basis. Training new staff members at the beginning of the year is important, and it must be done as quickly as possible. This is the first activity I have my new staff members do as an introduction to the parts of a yearbook and some of the terms that we used in publishing.
This worksheet is to be used in conjunction with sample yearbooks. I keep 20-30 different yearbooks in my classroom at any time as they serve as good inspirational and educational resources.
Each student takes a sheet and a yearbook. The form is rather self-explanatory and directs them to look for certain elements in the book. Upon completion, students are asked to rate the book and then present their findings in from of the class.
Most students are familiar with what a yearbook looks like and what he or she can expect to find inside on. This worksheet focuses on important terms and vocabulary that students will need to know for the rest of year.
What is the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you while you were teaching? I bet it had nothing to do with your students. My most unexpected moment of teaching came in an otherwise ordinary afternoon, but I never would have suspected the danger that lurked just over my head.
At the time, I taught freshmen and sophomore students at a beautiful high school in the middle of an otherwise deserted area. We have seen all manner of wildlife, from rabbits to hawks to barn owls, find their way onto our campus. Needless to say, the students are not the only creatures who have made their way inside the walls of my classroom.
It was a lovely spring afternoon, and I had just settled in with my sixth period freshman English class to read Act Three of “Romeo and Juliet.” Rome had just slain his new wife’s cousin, and things for the Montagues and the Capulets were going downhill fast. My students were on the edge of their seats, DYING to find out what happened next.
There was a sudden movement in the room. If you have ever taught a class of freshmen, you know that they can be squirrelly, but even this was out of the norm for my students. A subtle rustle began, a murmur like a gentle hum, and then a general movement. Something was amiss. The students knew what it was, but I was clueless.
Frustrated by this interruption of the great Shakespeare, I demanded to know what was going on. “Ms. Flint!” The kids said excitedly, “There’s a bat on the floor.” They pointed to a small brownish object lying on the floor next to my storage cabinet.
I looked, and then I looked closer. “What is it?” I asked the kids. We gathered around it, giving it a respectable berth. “It’s a bat,” they chimed.
I looked it over again. It was small and looked unreal. For a moment, I wanted to believe one of my students had brought in a fake bat. “Did someone put this here?” I asked. “No,” said one brave soul,” It came though the ceiling.”
I looked up. I was in a second floor classroom, and it was true that I had heard scampering in the ceiling when the students were gone for the day, and I walked through the empty hallways. I had assumed it was birds, or even a squirrel. The thought of a bat had never entered my mind; but there it was, lying prone on the floor of my classroom.
There are things they teach you about in college: methodology, techniques, how to write a lesson plan, aligning your teaching with standards. But never had I been taught how to handle this.
“Is it dead?” a quivering voice asked. We stood staring, nobody answering, and nobody wanted to see for sure if the creature was actually alive. It was about that time that I remembered I was the only adult in the room. It was up to me to take decisive action, although I just really wanted to flee from my room.
A ruler, a puppy-emblazoned student folder, and a panicked phone call to the school custodian later, and the bat — which was not dead after all, only stunned — and the disruption was over. The bat was gone, the students returned to their desks, and the rest of the period was free for Romeo and Juliet. But really, after a bat falls through your ceiling, can Shakespeare really compete with that?
Do you ever find yourself with too much grading and not enough time? Yes, it’s the song of our people. I cannot honestly remember the last weekend I did not have a least a few hours of paperwork to catch up on that I did not have time for during my regular work week.
Splat: Divide students into two or more teams and give each team an unused flyswatter. Hang relevant vocabulary word on the wall. Provide the students with a definition or a sentence — minus the word. The first team to swat the correct word with the flyswatter gets a point. This would also work well with literary terms, characters, quotes — the sky’s the limit! This activity requires 30 minutes of preparation
Jeopardy: This is my absolute favorite way to prepare my students for a test over a novel, play, or other major unit. Simply create your Jeopardy game to highlight the important information you want your students to know. Divide the class into two teams, have them pick a spokesperson (the only one who can give answer), and have fun! I do recommend picking a squirrelly student to assist you with keeping score. Additionally, I take away points when a team is talking out of turn. You can find a template to create your own Jeopardy! review game here. This activity requires 1-2 hours of preparation, but you can reuse it over and over.
Timeline Puzzle: This is a quick review activity that requires 5-10 minutes of preparation. Take a short story, play, or novel and chose 10-15 important events. You can either write them on the board — out of order, or type them up and cut them apart. Have students, in groups, arrange the events in the correct order. When one group is done, send members out to help other groups.
Students create their own test: This is another one of my favorite collaborative pre-test activities. In groups, students create the test they think they may see in the next day or two. I have them write a mix of questions: multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay. Not only are they responsible for coming up with meaningful questions (no gotcha! questions, they are also responsible for writing the answer key to their test. Once complete, I team up groups to challenge their classmates. Preparation time: none! Give credit for participation.
Students Teach their Peers: Here’s another minimal-prep activity. Assign collaborative groups to a particular section of a novel or play. I use this all the time when I teach Shakespeare and The Canterbury Tales. Tell students they are responsible for teaching the rest of the class their assigned portion of the novel, play, or ____. (Add your own ideas here.) I grade them as they present their information. Additionally, all students are required to take notes during presentations.
Four Corners: This activity is good discussion theme, persuasion, and some controversial topics related to literature. The instructions can be found here, although you can adapt them to fit your needs. I love doing this activities with my older students, as the discussions we have are meaningful and increase their interest in the reading. Prep time: 20-30 minutes.
Who Am I? — This is a fun post-novel or play activity. Write the names of characters on tape or address labels. Put them on students’ backs so they cannot see their name, but other students can. Students may ask each other only yes or no questions until they figure out which character they are. This would also be fun with literary terms. Prep time: 15 minutes.
Snowball fight: This fun vocabulary game is a crowd-pleaser. This works with vocabulary, literary terms, or even as a review before a test. Prep time: 10 minutes.
If you are anything like me, you have run into a lot of people who tell you that teaching must be easy. They say things like, “I’ve thought about teaching, after I’m done working” or “How hard can it be?” or “I don’t know why you’re so busy all the time; you’re just a teacher.”