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Ybk: It’s a Big Deal

‘Jumbos’ help with campus relevance

It’s hard to guess exactly why the buy-rate at Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park, Kansas, is nearly twice the national average, but it’s not hard to understand how important culture and tradition are in the equation.

Throughout the school’s history, students have had the option to request a yearbook at registration, and that tradition alone delivers about 1,000 orders for the staff. But the staff works hard all year to keep Illumination front and center inside the school.

Making distribution a big event is definitely a factor. The books are traditionally presented to seniors first, at their celebratory picnic. Back on campus, the other students receive their books the same afternoon at an all-school event in grade-by-grade waves.

“It’s a great tradition,” said Deborah Glenn, CJE, Blue Valley West adviser for the last 10 years. “In the end, the whole school gathers back together to sign books and reminisce about another year.”

But throughout the year, there are jumbos, poster-sized prints of candid photos, posted all around the school. The idea presented itself more than five years ago when the staff watched a documentary on Pete Souza, a photojournalist and former White House photographer with Kansas ties.

“It was kind of funny,” Glenn recalled. “At one point he was explaining these ‘jumbos’ he’d hang — and change out every two weeks — in the White House.

We all just looked at each other and asked why we had never done that. We have all these great photographers and the benefit of a great photo services team in the district office.

Now, we send them PDFs of staff favorites, some in the book and many not, and they print out 14″ x 20″ slicks for us.”

They order two copies of each print, so staffers can deliver one to the subject of the image.

“We try to remind everyone on campus that we have photographers out there all the time capturing their memories,” she explained.

There might be as many as 50 jumbos on display at any given time, and Glenn estimates the staff has delivered thousands to those pictured.

“It definitely increases excitement for the book on campus, and we’ve been selling out in recent years,” she said. “We truly have just one copy left this year and we’ll be taking it to convention for Best of Show.”

 

01_Jumbos
Photo by Photo by Reese Wheeler

CELEBRATING THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, the yearbook staff prints poster-sized versions of its favorite photos and posts them around the school.

 

02_BlueValleyWest
Photo by Alexa Crouse

THE TRADITION and build-up to delivery day mean that the whole school wants to participate — and that means book sales are strong at Blue Valley West. Even though the picnic was rained out last year, seniors filled the gym floor to enjoy the yearbook.

 


 

ANOTHER TAKE

Traditions and twists are both factors in selling more yearbooks

As an alum of the yearbook program at Columbus North High School in Indiana, adviser Roth Lovins, CJE, smiles when he and his Log yearbook staff uncover successful ways to sell more copies.

They work hard, he says, to create a great record of the year and they want as many students as possible to have a copy of the book so those memories will be accessible forever.

“We’re always trying new things to sell more books,” he said. “More reminders in and around school. More messages sent home. Messages on more channels. They are all a part of our plan.”

Now in its second year, Lovins introduced a four-book package which allows parents to purchase a set of yearbooks for incoming freshmen.

“There’s some additional record keeping,” he admitted. “But it’s worth it because they’ll never be disappointed when we sell out, they don’t have to worry about forgetting to buy and they save some money. And we have the guarantee that those students are buying all four books.”

As word spreads among families, he hopes the package becomes a tradition that lasts. “It just makes so much sense,” he said.

Other times, the staff looks for something unexpected. Whether it’s chalking huge sales messages on the walkways at the main entrance or papering the commons with order forms just before a price increase, they want to remind people that there is limited time to purchase a yearbook.

“It’s finding more ways to get the word out,” concluded Lovins. “And making the book as easy to buy as possible.”

 

03_Another
Photo by Kaelin Hanrattie

CHALKING A MESSAGE at the school’s main entrance reminds Columbus North students to buy a book.
 
 
 

We’ve All Said it Before

…and the truth of the mantra still holds

If you’ve been a yearbooker very long, you’ve probably been in a conversation — or 15 —about how yearbook is forever.

You’ve likely preached it as you work with newbies — and when you’re reminding experienced staffers they can do better. Your mantra about creating the only permanent record of the school year probably echoes in the heads of staffers every time they recall their yearbook experiences.

And that’s a good thing. It’s what brings former editors back to visit when they return to town for homecoming or holiday breaks. Their presence is more than a chance for them to encourage your current staff to build on the foundation you’ve established on campus. It’s likely they’ll also share some tips for deadline success, choosing classes, navigating the college application process and life after high school.

But their return also represents a greater understanding of what they achieved during their years with you. While they may occasionally converse with other teachers during their visits or when they see them at school events, it’s less likely they’re texting those former teachers when a college professor mentions a phrase from the yearbook world or when they find an ad that would make a great theme.

Most yearbookers come to understand the importance of the volume they are creating. Hopefully, they’ve embraced the importance of including everyone on campus as many times as possible, rather than over-covering a select few. They find the balance of covering major events and everyday occurrences to capture the year accurately.

As for the other readers, the reality of a yearbook’s value may not sink in for many years. Sure, distribution day is often a campus event. It’s always fun to see yourself and your friends in the book and, in many schools, the tradition of signing yearbooks is alive and well. But greater appreciation is more likely years — or decades — into the future, when a class reunion looms or curiosity sends someone back to those pages to find a specific answer or connect a name to a face.

But at some point, they’ll embrace those volumes that captured these years and be able to remember the people and events that made this year what it was. Add this to your list of goals: Producing a book that both delights readers when it arrives and provides details necessary for the year to live on indefinitely.

Yearbook is both a privilege and a responsibility. Now. And forever.

Ann Akers, MJE

 Speaking of forever, she started yearbooking when they counted headlines to fit, printed photos to size and paid extra for cross-gutter bleeds!

My Life Beyond Yearbooks


Giovanni Montalvo didn’t get his yearbook portrait taken his senior year at GioM Malaga Profile PicCinco Ranch High School. Or his junior, or sophomore or freshman year. He can’t really remember why. He was still interviewed for his senior yearbook and even made a video, “My Life Through Yearbooks,” (above) which has more than 19,000 views on YouTube…

What he can remember, and what the video represents, is when he finally figured out what he was meant to do in life.

“I found filmmaking the last semester of my senior year. It was too late to apply to film school, but I wanted to go to University of Texas, Austin. It was even too late for that, but I got into UT, San Antonio.”

After taking introductory college classes and not really connecting, Montalvo found himself at a crossroads. He wanted to go to a real film school, but L.A. and New York were so expensive.

“I told my parents about film school, and they said, “Are you sure? Don’t you want to make money?” Montalvo said. “When all of my classmates were pursuing careers in medicine, law or business, it was like saying, ‘I want to be a cowboy or an astronaut.’

An interesting analogy for a kid who grew up in Katy, TX, just outside of Houston – he really could have been a cowboy or an astronaut. And still, filmmaking seemed like a stretch.

Montalvo had family in Great Britain and had visited them several times. He did the research and realized it was much more economical to pursue his career in London. So, away he went to Ravensbourne University London.

Now, a 22-year-old graduate with award-winning short films and corporate video projects on his resume, Montalvo has again decided not to make the expected career move — going to L.A. to take the big leap into filmmaking.

“Other international students told me, ‘It’s easy to go home, but it will be hard to come back.’ ”

Work visas and immigration policies put him at yet another crossroads. He decided he wanted to focus on his craft and work in the industry in Europe. In early October, he moved to Amsterdam, a country that will allow him to freelance and live with fewer employment restrictions.

That’s the thing about pursuing a creative career like filmmaking, writing or design, he said.

“You’re not being directed all the time. You have to do it out of your own will and your own heart.

It’s very scary to make that decision. But, it’s that fear you have to hold and embrace. That’s what keeps you moving forward.

Regardless of whether you’re a senior in high school or a college graduate,” Montalvo said, “It’s about being firm in your decision, about being excited and keeping that excitement.”

When looking at his high school journey, and thinking about the people who influenced him, Montalvo remembers an English teacher, Bruce Hayes, whom he had for both freshman and senior English.

“Mr. Hayes had taught English in Japan. On our first day of freshman year he started yelling in Japanese. Desks were everywhere. His class was chaos.”

Montalvo realized that was part of his allure as a teacher. Students never knew what to expect.

“His philosophy of teaching was ‘think for yourself’. He embraced what the students in the class wanted to do.”

He embraced Montalvo’s budding interest in video when he had made a short film, and Mr. Hayes asked him to show it to the class. That was his first audience and his first realization that he had found something he was passionate about.

“When you’re in high school everything moves so slowly. The pep rally is on Friday. The quiz is on Monday. The test is on Tuesday. You have so many things set for you. You go hour by hour.”

Five years later, and with a sister who’s a junior, also at Cinco Ranch High School, it seems like those high school years were so short. The day-to-day stresses his sister is consumed with are so small compared to where he knows she will go in life.

“Now, I’m writing more and reading more. I think back to things that I thought were inconsequential and irrelevant, and they make sense. Even reading The Odyssey; I’m drawing on that now.”

He thinks back to the films he made in high school.

“When I made those videos, it was pure. I had nothing to worry about but making those videos. Now, my projects turn into larger and more thought-out processes. I look back to when it was just me. I had a child-like wonder. I have to keep that child-like wonder.”

But that’s not to say he has it all figured out.

“If someone reads this and thinks I really have it together. They’re wrong,” he said with a laugh. “I’m 22 now and I thought that 22-year-olds were adults, but I still feel like a little kid.”

Equal to his determination to succeed, Montalvo included the need to maintain his child-like excitement.

On set, when I talk to the crew and the actors, I always tell them, “Let’s take our work seriously, but let’s not take ourselves seriously. That makes a big difference.”

 

Visit Giovanni Montalvo’s YouTube channel here.

Top 10 Reasons to Join the Yearbook Staff

Recruiting Your Rockstar Yearbook Staff

Top 10 Reasons to Join the Yearbook Staff

Joining the team that puts together your school’s yearbook is more than just a great way to get involved with your school. It’s also is great way to learn all sorts of valuable skills.

#10 It gets you involved

Yearbook is a great way to get involved with every aspect of your school. Yearbook touches on EVERYTHING that goes on in your school and community. From attending all kinds of different events to mingling with your student body, yearbook gives you a great excuse to stay connected with your school at all levels.

#9 Camaraderie

With yearbook, the staffers work together as a team to put out a book that the entire school wants a part of. It has to be a team effort or everything comes off the rails.

#8 Free events

As a member of the yearbook staff, when you get sent to cover a sporting event, or any other event, you get in free. Yes, you’re there to cover the event and you can’t just goof around, but by covering it, you’re probably more involved in the action than most spectators, which makes it even more fun.

#7 Learn life skills

Ever sat in class thinking, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” You won’t get that with yearbook. With yearbook you learn how to communicate better, how to solve problems, how to grow as a leader how to manage your time and, most importantly, how to hit a deadline.

#6 Boost your journalism skills

If you’re interested in journalism, this is the place where you’ll get hands-on experience with the whole enchilada. From writing and photography to research, design, layout, editing and even media law (what journalists can and can’t do).

#5 Learn business skills

Yearbook’s not just a class, it’s a business. You’re making a product and you’ve got to get the kids in school to want to buy that product — which is why you’ll learn valuable business skills such as budgeting, promotion, advertising, marketing, customer service and market research.

#4 You’ll hone your social media skills

You’re probably already a social media expert when it comes to your personal life. Why not also learn how to take advantage of this valuable tool when it comes to business communication? By being part of yearbook, you’ll learn about storytelling, creating and organizing content, engaging your audience, online research and brand management.

#3 Looks great in your portfolio

Whether you’re trying to get an internship or sending out applications for college, you’re showing the world you are an active member of a hard-working team who can handle multitasking, socializing, deadline management and everything in between.

#2 Work with the latest technology

Yearbook gives you the chance to get your hands on the kind of technology you’ll be working with later on in life. That means design, photo-editing, business and production management software.

#1 It’s fun!

Last but not least, yearbook is just plain fun. You’ll learn a ton, but you’ll do it in a fun and interesting way. Plus, the end result is a keepsake that captures all of your work – and memories – into a book you’ll keep forever. How many other classes or clubs can promise you something like that?

Cause and Effect

MKD_blog

At Chantilly High School Abby Lee, Vietthao Ho, Mary Kay Downes, Nicole Re and Nia Hoq review the cover proof for the 2019 Odyssey. Photo by Kimberly Lee

Adviser Mary Kay Downes’ knowledge of and passion for yearbook earns her the coveted teacher inspiration award

Mary Kay Downes, MJE, prides herself on being in the know.
She’s advised the Chantilly High School yearbook for more than 30 years.
She is the district mentor for journalism teachers in Fairfax County, Virginia. It seems she knows everyone in scholastic journalism, so she’s often among the first to hear any scholastic journalism news.
But this surprised her.
“It was a work day, and I was in another teacher’s classroom, working on some curriculum, when my phone started blowing up,” Downes said.
She found out she was being honored with JEA’s Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award, an honor for motivating a pursuit of journalism education as well as longevity and achievement of other advisers.
Nobody else was surprised by the news.

“First, [on the phone] was Leslie Dennis from [the Southern Interscholastic Press Association]. I was shocked, overwhelmed and I got emotional,” Downes said. “The teacher I was working with was concerned. She asked if I needed help — and I just laughed and let her know it was all good, in a crazy way. I had no idea.”

 

Advisers with whom she’s worked cite her as a generous expert, a guru of foundational skills and a coach for advisers and editors alike. She already has a list of awards a mile long. Among those, CSPA’s Gold Key, NSPA’s Pioneer Award, JEA’s Medal of Merit and National Yearbook Adviser of the Year honors, as well as an array of state and regional nods.
After falling in love with pubs as a college creative, she taught for years before returning to yearbook in 1987. Since 1995, the Odyssey yearbook has won 17 awards in NSPA’s Pacemaker competition and 12 Crown honors from CSPA. In addition, the book has earned four consecutive Col. Charles E. Savedge awards.
Nominated for the honor by a former editor, Katie Eklund Frazier, CJE, who now advises in Texas, and Val Kibler, MJE, JEA’s vice president, who also advises in Virginia, Downes’ nomination included letters from students and peers she has inspired.
Honored at the spring JEA/NSPA convention, Downes will also address attendees at the annual JEA Advisers’ Institute in July.
“I was humbled by the comments and compliments,” she said. “Ours is a world filled with many great teachers who could be honored in this way.”

Mind the GutterMore from the queen
Learn about years of yearbooking from the legendary MKD on the season two premiere of our podcast, Mind the Gutter podcast.

 

Read about more amazing advisers in the Folio magazine story, Theme’s So True.

Yearbook is for Life

Hear it from Ann

While the language varies, it’s no surprise so many people in the yearbook world share common sentiments. There’s a nearly universal dread as deadlines somehow become more difficult at the end. Everyone is busy and tired — maybe overwhelmed.

Complicated by unpredictable weather and sources who don’t share our sense of urgency, there are days when the end cannot come soon enough.

Even once the book is completed, there are few days off to celebrate, recoup and regroup before the staff is ready to go again — working to sell out before books arrive, planning for supplement coverage, scheming a distribution event, taking care of contest/critique and end-of-year details, and thinking ahead to the next volume.

There’s always a sense of anticipation in the air.
Once the books arrive, celebrations take on a new feel and another reality sets in — some staffers will move on as others prepare to take the reins and begin the process anew. But the joy of holding a new yearbook — of the first sniff, the first view, the first read — is a memory etched into the minds of all who made it happen.

It doesn’t end there. In the decades that follow, there will be times when a lesson learned, a memory from a workshop, convention or deadline creeps back in.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I first read one of my favorite descriptions of how yearbook grows on you. It’s what Invictus adviser Cortney Weisman’s first co-editors, Samantha Baer and Jana Hirsch, said in 2006. It became the opening to Weisman’s start-of-year speech at Ward Melville High.

 

“First, you become a part of yearbook. Then, it becomes a part of you.”

 

Both Baer, now an attorney, and Hirsch, a research professor, stay in contact with their former adviser. Simply more proof they were correct.

For years, Chantilly adviser Mary Kay Downes has signed off “YB4L.” Guess who taught the editors’ section at Gettysburg Yearbook Experience (GYE) when both Baer and Hirsch attended to prepare to be leaders?

MKD. That’s who inspired them to raise the bar.
Some conventions bring out “once a yearbooker, always a yearbooker” T-shirts and a new flock of creatives clamoring for flair with messages proclaiming their passion. When it’s workshop time, some brag they can wear different yearbook garb each day for weeks. Traditions stick with those who know special yearbook birthday songs and chants they’ll never forget.

Through the years, the phrase “Yearbook is my life” has adorned merch. For the Yearbook Tech workshoppers in San Diego, it was also the official camp cheer. Workshop director Steve Bailey and his assistants began “YEARBOOK is my life” and followed it with “Yearbook IS my life” to emphasize a commitment to the whole project. With each ensuing repetition, the volume increased. Most recently, the chant was the perfect finale to a presentation honoring the life of the late Bailey, long-time rep and former adviser who inspired thousands in his decades with Herff Jones.

Advisers remember these times when former staffers return to campus.

There’s nothing like hearing how yearbook continues to influence students. Whether it’s an annual event, a random trip home or a note, professional and personal achievements are often presented with connections to lessons learned in the yearbook room.

Others might not understand how it could have such impact on so many lives. But it tends to work its way into conversations for years to come.

More proof, I guess, that yearbook is for life.

 

Mind the GutterHear her journey
It’s her yearbook world. We’re just living in it.
Hear more from Ann Akers on our Mind the Gutter podcast.

 

Love Letter

FloridaChristianHS Spread

Anniversary years are often yearbook traps. Administrators want a history book, but that could lead staffers to overlook students and faculty members currently walking their halls.

In the case from a Square OneTM pilot staff in Florida, leaders not only decided to celebrate the bond students share, but to do so in a format they had never tried.

They embraced a blended approach to content, meaning modules with clear separation space fill spreads as they fit together physically, but without unifying topics. Coverage and topics blend together to mirror the lives and schedules of students.

 

“I wanted to do blended coverage because I am always open to change. Why not be different?” Editor Taylor San Miguel said.

 

“In the past, we didn’t get to cover certain programs as much as we’d like. Using modular design with Square OneTM and following a blended approach opened up so much in the book. We were able to cover everything.

Like everything, everything.

When you’re a new staffer, doing full spreads on a single topic is just so much. How are you going to fill the spread and put something new and interesting there when sometimes there isn’t something new and interesting?

This way, we develop a mod around a dominant story to give it more space of its own. The reader goes there first, then naturally it goes along eyelines and separators to see the other packages or mods. If the coverage you have planned doesn’t work out — you don’t get great photos or the story doesn’t turn out to be interesting — you can just change that coverage out with another mod about another topic.

A group of seniors sat in the hall crying when they saw the book for the first time. Those seniors cried enough for the whole school. Seeing the book — it was so different than before — people liked that this way of doing the spreads gave more attention to more people. And, it looks more modern.

 

 

Everyone should be equally represented because the first thing everyone does is look for their names, and when they are featured on more than two pages, it’s a great gift.

Even the teachers loved the coverage. A coach originally said her team wasn’t covered enough because she was expecting to see a spread devoted to the team, like our old yearbooks. But I showed her all the mods scattered throughout. She was impressed!

That’s the goal of blended coverage. You have to look through the whole book to find yourself and, in the process, appreciate the whole school. It takes some getting used to. But, you notice kids are paying attention to coverage they never noticed before. Because chemistry may be on the same spread as soccer.

Blended coverage makes the process so much easier. You can make spreads multiply.

Just flip one in each direction. Then, you have many different looks to start with. Readers won’t notice the templates are flipped because you won’t put those spreads next to each other on the ladder. They notice the pretty pictures and clever headlines, and that’s it. And, of course, they notice all the coverage.

 

“Yearbook is an art.
It’s journalistic in style, writing, photography, design. You’re not going to please everybody. That’s just how life is.”

 

Dream Big

Dream Big Hear it from Ann

It’s always fun to study the new releases, noting what staffs are doing well and how trends are shifting. Whatever time I allot to reviewing books, I always wish I had more.

During summer planning, it’s easy to imagine ambitious additions.

Gatefolds galore? That’d be cool.

Theme-related coverage strategies you know would be a lot of extra work?  Might be a challenge you could accept.

Personalizing each book? Wow! They’d love that.

But then, as production begins, reality sets in and those workshop dreams can get hazy. If you plan from the start to make those special extras happen — and commit to making them important — the impact can be as significant as imagined. If your kids are excited and willing, you have the power to make those dreams come true.

If the plan involves adding pages, foldouts, special-order papers or inks, cover and endsheet upgrades, work with your rep to manage your budget. Then, your business team can determine how to offset those expenses.

Set reasonable dates for progressive goals to ensure you’re working to stay on budget. Not meeting those sales goals may mean you won’t be able to afford the extras.

If your ambitious idea does not become someone’s assigned responsibility, there’s a greater chance it will fade into the hustle of production.

Make the project a priority, and watch it flourish.

I know you face the challenge of serving many audiences. You want the students to love your book when it arrives and to cherish it more as the years pass. It’s also important for parents and the greater school community to see you’ve created a comprehensive and accurate record of the year.

You can make sure that happens by dreaming big as you plan for your next masterpiece, putting plans in place to ensure success and following through to delight your readers.

Your efforts will be remembered every time those readers grab their yearbooks — whether it’s over the summer, in five years or 50. And your staff will be remembered, not just for preserving the memories of the year, but for the extra efforts you made to create a book that stands out.

 

Texas High School

 

Texas High School Tiger

Texarkana, Texas

Even though its first century as a school was ending, staffers focused on the future with the theme “To be continued.” Each of the 10 sections open with a fold-out divider introducing a student profile on the following spread. In the middle of the book, a short-trimmed magazine of school history shows all 100 book covers and provides news from each year. Coverage of this book continues in Take Note.

 

Toby Johnson Middle School

 

Toby Johnson Middle School Jamboree

 Elk Grove, California

The coverage spanning the bottom margin was perfect for the theme “Eventually everything connects.” Staff members linked students to one another with attributes like “who lives on the same block as,” “whose favorite place in the world is Italy like” or “who has braces like” until the final entry, that linked back to the first name in the opening. With six students per spread, nearly 400 became part of the theme development.

 

Westfield Middle School

 

Westfield Middle SchoolThe Scrapbook

Westfield, Indiana

Themed “It’s ours and it’s everything,” this book included a personalized tri-fold tipped onto a theme-driven spread inside. Completing almost 750 individualized tip-ins meant every early buyer had a one-of-a-kind book. With several full-color images, a quote from a friend, a six-word memoir the students shared (not knowing how it would be used), the special feature pleased students and parents alike. Those who were waitlisted received a similar tip-in with spaces and instructions on how to personalize so their books had extra coverage as well.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

Erinn Harris had everything figured out. She ran the well-oiled machine that was the yearbook program at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. And, she had a system in place.

“Tell them what needs to happen, print at 100%, conference, and everything will get done. Because it always gets done,” the Alexandria, Virginia adviser said.

It was like magic.

That was the plan for five years. And it was the plan at the beginning of the year. But then, she said, 2018 became the year of, “Oh So Real.”

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

“My class was comprised of two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors,” she said. “Even though I knew only two of these six had a year of class experience under their belts, this is how I started the year. And as of December, we were behind by 49 pages and more proofs than I’d like to admit.”

It was winter break and she needed to start over. The plan from the past five years was not going to cut it anymore. So, she changed.

“The key to adapting to the circumstances of your year is to know yourself and know your kids and figure out what they need to be successful, understanding success may just look different year to year,” the master journalism educator said.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

This year, she said, the staff needed structure. In January, she created it.

“At the end of every class period, my students fill out a Google form exit ticket. On it, they tell me, among other things, three items they want to accomplish before the next class period, something they are worried about and something they are celebrating.”

Download an example of the form here.

The form dictated how the class ran. Each day, she used responses to create individual goals. Then, in class they followed a new agenda. They shared celebrations, moved to a short lesson, spent 30 minutes on goal work, then 30 minutes planning for upcoming deadlines. To finish the period, staffers filled out their exit tickets.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

No longer a, “Here’s what needs to get done, now do it,” adviser, Harris focused on celebrations.

“When you’re having a rough year, that’s what’s going to get you through,” she said. “The knowledge that the experiences we’re going through are so thoroughly relatable. All you have to do is find a way to adapt to what life throws at you.”

 


Erinn Harris has advised student publications for 12 years, three at Lee High School in Springfield,Virginia and nine at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Recently earning the Virginia High School League Savedge Award for Continued Excellence, these staffs have earned NSPA Pacemaker awards and CSPA Crowns.

 


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It’s Time for the Talk

It’s Time for the Talk

At the close of the year, distribution day sounds like the light at the end of the tunnel. But, it’s not for the faint of heart. Or for the unprepared.

Justin Daigle has lived through a few distribution days as the adviser at Brighton High School in Brighton, Colorado, and he knows how to prepare his staff for the challenging moments. He knows when it’s time for “the talk.”

He begins with how they communicate with each other. Negativity comes from all directions, but should never come from the staff, he said.

“Let’s face it, each time we open the book, we find some new type of error: A misspelled name or word, a graphic in the wrong place, or a bar that’s blue instead of red. First, we have to accept the book is printed and we did the best we could,” the certified journalism educator said.

As Daigle reminds his staffers to leave behind their critical eyes once the ink has dried, he tells them to stay out of the comments section.

It’s Time for the Talk

“If a student sees a negative social media post about the yearbook, I want them to be the bigger person and let it go. No staff member should post anything negative or passive aggressive about any incidents or feedback from the book,” he said.

Repeat: Do. Not. Engage. The. Haters.

And Daigle leads the charge. When those inevitable parent phone calls start, and when students post hateful comments about a page, he lets it go.

He teaches how to combat negativity by being proactive.

“I send an email to the school employees revealing the theme and the details about yearbook distribution. I ask them to squelch any negative comments they may hear in the halls or in their classrooms and redirect them to how fantastic the book is.”

Another tactic is to include a policy in each book. Staffers put them inside the front endsheet as they hand out books so buyers see they are there.

It’s Time for the Talk

The policy sheet directs students to check the book for damages, apologizes in advance for typos and mistakes, and includes a statement about yearbook being the only class where work is published for all to see so proceed with complaints accordingly, as well as the staff’s policy against refunds.

There are, of course, legitimate issues, such as name misspellings or direct quote discrepancies. Daigle has a process for those as well.

“First, take a time out. Rather than getting defensive or angry, do your research, and if a mistake was made, own it and apologize,” he said.

Distribution day should be one of the greatest celebrations of the year, and if staffers are prepared for what they will experience, it can be.

It’s Time for the Talk

“We spend hours upon hours upon hours working on our yearbooks until the final proofs are sent,” Daigle said, “so we become very close to it. We should prepare to celebrate the positive feedback while also putting systems in place to work through any negative criticism. The staff works too hard all year to let any negativity ruin anything we accomplished.”

Download a sample distribution policy here, and if you have your own, send it to us. We love to learn and to see what advisers everywhere are doing.

 


Justin DaigleJustin Daigle, CJE, has advised the Reflections yearbook at Brighton High School in Colorado for 12 years. His students’ publications have earned state and national awards including CSPA Crowns and NSPA Pacemaker honors. Daigle was the 2009 Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA) Teacher of the Year as well as JEA Rising Star in 2010 and Special Recognition (2014) and Distinguished (2016) Yearbook Adviser of the Year.

 


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