We all like the opportunity for a fresh start, and for many of us back-to-school time represents new beginnings, new perspectives and new chances to grow and achieve.
That’s why starting production of a new yearbook each fall can feel so rewarding. After all, the sky is the limit when it comes to improving previous techniques, working with new team members and mining their creativity to incorporate cutting-edge new ideas.
“It’s not just a feeling; it’s a reality that is also kind of unique to teaching,” writes teacher Ariel Sacks in Education Week. “Each new school year carries its own flavor, a sense of possibility, the excitement and challenge of trying new things with new students. It’s the undeniable effect of new pencils, new notebooks, new white board markers and new sneakers.”
In that spirit, here are some tips for kicking off your new yearbook production on a highly positive note.
1. Consider moving furniture and décor around in your room to signal a change in perspective. “Make your space inviting,” advises Staff Development Specialist Courtney Hanes on GettingSmart.com. “Don’t feel like you have to cover every wall with standards and content-specific material either, unless those really inspire you.”
2. On the first day, stage a fun mixer that encourages teamwork. For example, you might provide ice pop sticks, glue and markers on the tables and challenge students to design and build a contraption that has the (imaginary) power to improve people’s lives, suggests educator Suzanne Capek Tingley on WGU.edu. “Give them a taste of how interesting and even exciting your course will be,” she recommends. “It requires putting some effort and creativity into first-day activities and showing students you want them to like learning and enjoy your class. Remember: You only have one chance to make a good first impression.”
3. Over the first week, review last year’s yearbook production with your team, celebrating highlights and discussing areas for improvement. Don’t waste time on regrets; rather, talk about your strategies for repeating previous successes, minimizing known challenges and achieving better results overall. Be ready to hand out packets that include schedules, student body and sports rosters, club and extracurriculars lists, staff directories, etc.
4. If production roles haven’t already been assigned, evaluate the talents and interests of this year’s team. Find out what individual students hope to gain from your class and make initial assignments accordingly. As goals and interests evolve, they can always rotate in and out of their roles later in the year. Make it clear team members must take their roles seriously and will be held accountable for the outcomes.
5. Immediately organize photography schedules. The first few days of school can provide great photo ops that tell stories about the beginning of the year. Your staff may also want to optimize school picture day (commonly scheduled for early in the year) to gather its own more candid shots of key students and groups.
6. Commit to maintaining a fun atmosphere. Just because the work is important doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. When possible, spark creativity by encouraging students to play their own music, bring in their own foods to share, choose their own yearbook designs, etc. Plan interesting field trips relevant to design, photograph, journalism, publishing, marketing and/or sales and encourage open (respectful) discourse. “Learning and fun shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, and what you do when your students come back to high school can give them hope,” notes Tingley.
7. A quality end product is, of course, important. But remember that your ultimate goal is to help students learn new skills and develop as individuals. “Very few other professions have the power to create community and change lives the way teachers do,” notes Sacks. “The bigger picture is that you spend your day in a place where people care about children and are doing their best to support them as they grow.”
The first few days of back-to-school time can be crucial to establishing high standards for this year’s yearbook production. Take time to consider exactly how you wish to present your program so you can set it up for ultimate success.