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ExtracurricularMy dad is a professional photographer so cameras have always been a part of my life. Perhaps that’s why being on one end of the camera or on the other makes very little difference to me…it’s all good!  As a child I was taken in-tow from job to job with my father; I posed for this poster, that spread, this advertisement, that brochure; hung out in darkrooms, straighten carpets, positioned lights; met governors and diplomats and always, always, always carried heavy equipment (nothing was light back in those days).  One might think that this alone MORE than qualifies me for the prestigious job of yearbook advisor (or not). Remember, my DAD is the professional, I am not. My SON is a genius behind the camera, I’m just a bit better than the average Joe…so why do I run a yearbook?  I have no idea, but run it I do, and run it well!

Advisor by Default?

Chances are, if you are the school yearbook advisor, you obtained the job by chance. I received my yearbook position at the junior high where I used to work because the math teacher that used to do it quit, and I was the best option. It really was quite fun. I basically had no one to answer to and I only had one deadline…March 15th. I took all the pictures (with my tiny little digital camera), and made all the pages. My biggest stress was getting some track practice photos taken before the submission deadline came around, along with the fear of a some sort of misspelled word or name. I sold no advertising, and the office collected all the money…life was good. When I was interviewing for the English position at my current high school, the fact that I had yearbook experience, most-likely sealed the deal for hiring me; yearbook advisor…by default…again.

Year of the Bear

“Yearbook is a bear, so hang in there!” were the words I heard some well meaning person utter to me days before the first day of school in my new adventure. A bear? How?  I loved it in jr. high. It was a walk in the park…a bear? Surely they exaggerated? Oh, how I wish.  No, compared to my experience in jr. high yearbook, high school yearbook WAS another animal, and yes, that animal was a bear.

It’s Personal and It’s Business

Ask any high school yearbook advisor and they’ll tell you that it’s exactly like running your own business. I didn’t believe that until I was knee deep in advertisement sales, yearbook sales, senior baby ad sales, check collection, senior photo collection, staff training and maintenance, photo scheduling, and work ethic issues. Putting together pages almost became secondary. Thank goodness in my first year, I had six returning staffers that helped me out tremendously! I counted on them to help me by creating ladders, showing me their personal techniques on ad sales, and orienting new students on equipment and schedules, while I kept the “business” going.  It took me months to finally feel like I knew what I was doing, but I never gave up, and we produced an amazing product.

Change is Inevitable

One of the hardest things for a new advisor coming in, is to gain the trust of the staff.  In my case, the past advisor had been there several years and had a very set regimen and routine. All her books went in and came out with precision and perfection. The staff that she chose was amazing, but they were used to her personality and her way of doing things…which wasn’t mine. My way is anything but precision and perfection…my way is messy, artistic and outside the box. It took me the whole first semester to convince my staff to think differently…very differently.  I couldn’t blame the staffers; change is always hard. Eventually they came around to seeing that my way wasn’t all bad.  We made changes in baby steps. I started with something they could all get on board with (an entire yearbook printed in color) and moved forward from there. In the end, we all produced a product that we knew we could be proud of and it was fun to watch my staffers go outside of their comfort zone and try new things.

Try it…You’ll Like it!

Your experiences as a yearbook advisor may be completely different than mine. You may not have had the experience of growing up with a professional photographer as a father. Maybe your jr. high yearbook was just a much of a bear as your experience in high school yearbook or maybe it wasn’t a bear at all. Like everything in life, being a yearbook advisor takes hard work and dedication!  If I could teach you anything as you prepare for your new (or old) yearbook advisor adventure, it would be to be bold, fearless and try new things. Yearbook may have been something I was thrown into, but for better or for worse, it’s my baby…and I like it!

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  1. I just got hired as a high school English teacher. I have taught ELA 12 years. They told me I would also being doing yearbook…. ummm never in my life have I done yearbook. There are 3,000 kiddos in the school. Really nervous.

  2. I found out the last day of the school that I would be the new Yearbook Advisor and I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. I do not have a roster but have heard there are only 10 kids enrolled in the class. I am freaking out and have no idea where to start!

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