Requesting Less Stress, Please

requesting less stress

Well, I’ve finally figured it out! I never thought I would, but it happened. After three years flying solo as a yearbook adviser and three years of being the assistant adviser… I figured out how to start making this job less stressful – not more!

I find myself in an interesting, exciting, and exhausting situation … I am now the teacher and adviser for the high school which I attended, and served as editor. So, for the first few years, I found myself slipping back into the daily grind of a staff member – you know, taking pictures, helping write captions, designing spreads, creating ad work-ups, blah, blah, blah. Which, in the beginning, was a necessary evil as the staff was rather small. However, as you know, there was a bunch of other “adviser” stuff piled up on top of that – organizing picture day, selecting senior portraits, keeping a close eye on financials, deadlines, and the like. My stress level was reaching an all time high (in terms of yearbook!)

Then, all of a sudden over the course of the summer my yearbook staff doubled!  I thought I was in for a smooth year …. HA!  First, the book was our 50th anniversary book, which is a big deal.  Just figuring out how to celebrate the milestone in the spreads and stories can be challenging enough – but then you have to figure out how to make it really special. The kids had a ton of ideas – from scratch and sniff pictures so that people could “smell” the school – to the insertion of “artifacts” like an office referral, or tardy slip, or (and I’m not kidding) a lock of hair. This is where I jumped in and gave “a little” guidance. After much discussion, we took on a colossal throwback section in which we included original pictures and captions from the 49 proceeding years. So much for my smooth year!

Then summer rolls around again, and again I find myself with a larger class. However, I get a call while on vacation. It seems that I have a group of students whose schedule won’t let them take yearbook during the normal class period … so they ask if I would mind having them in a different period to work while I was teaching another class …. “Sure WHY NOT??”

We survived first semester – teaching with post-it notes … not exactly how they taught it in college … but for the most part we were successful. But, as Christmas break approached and second semester schedules were being adjusted … a few more kids got wind of this “independent yearbook” thing and of course wanted to join. So over the course of two days….I pick up a few more students … but during two OTHER periods, meaning that I had four periods of yearbook, three of which meet while I was teaching other classes. My sticky note teaching completely collapsed and I had kids going every direction.  My poor editor was so overwhelmed trying to keep track of everything that I just knew one day I would walk in and find her in the corner having a complete meltdown.

I decided it was time to regroup after I found myself spending the better part of my day worrying about who had a spread complete and ready to send to the plant, or who had a camera, or who has been on an assignment and needs graded, or WHERE ON EARTH DID THIS SD CARD COME FROM!

So, I took a three-day weekend to reflect and to figure out how to make this whole process easier. I came up with a fairly simple, but incredibly useful solution … a Credit Request form.   Essentially, it was just a checklist for the students to complete when finishing up a spread or completing a photo assignment. However, it was a place for me to grade the students quickly, the editors to make notes as to any changes that needed to be made and for us to track the status of the spread. It had the added bonus of allowing me to stop feeling like I was simply giving away grades, and put more of the pressure to complete assignments on the students, and created a paper trail for my grading (which the administrators loved!)

I am still amazed that something so simple as two pieces of paper could make my life so much easier. I suppose that I should also mention that at some point along the way, I came to realize that I was more than capable of helping my students create a high quality yearbook without actually doing all of the work myself. It’s their book, so it should be their content. If they don’t get the pictures, they get to figure out how to fill the pages… with meaningful content!  It’s my job to set the standard and hold high expectations, not try to meet them. The more responsibility the students feel they have, the better they do – because the annual yearbook really is A BIG DEAL. 

Dustin Shannon
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