As we listened intently during our Editorial Leadership class at the Walsworth summer workshop, we quickly realized that we would need to find new methods to motivate our staff, as most of the ideas given were meant for those whose yearbook was created in a classroom.
At our school, Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill., yearbook is not a mandatory activity, but one that requires staffers to dedicate their own free time. It always proves to be a challenge to finish our 308-page, spring delivery book with an extracurricular staff of only 16 members who don’t get a grade. Encouraging them to work is not an easy task, but slowly, we have learned some surefire methods needed to meet our deadlines.
1. Our former editors brought back the tradition of bylines, one we decided to continue. By giving credit to the editor and photographer who put their time and effort into each spread, we learned that staffers put more heart into pages with their names on them. No one seemed to want to take credit for poorly done pages, so this encouraged them to take their work more seriously. In addition, this was seen as a reward for meeting the deadline and exceeding our expectations, so this motivated our staff even more.
We also emphasized at the beginning of the year that bylines were a privilege, not a right, and that they could be taken away for failing to complete their pages on time. Our staff reveled in the pride of seeing their names on their spreads come May.
2. Learning from experience, we realized early on that we had to stay in constant communication with our staff. Meeting often has not proved successful because our staff members are involved with multiple activities. To combat the communication dilemma, we set up individual section meetings before school once a deadline. This allows more personal interaction, during which editors can discuss their ideas with us more freely and help us learn what we need to do to help them.
3. Being procrastinators ourselves, we decided to help the staff and ourselves stay on top of things by creating mid-deadline checkpoints. Editors have four checkpoints, with the last being submission of completed pages. By spacing out when photos, copy, and captions are due, editors have an easier time finishing their work and we have an easier time editing each part individually. Since we do not have the opportunity to see our staff members daily, we communicate often using email, Facebook messaging or text message. This ensures that they always know what is happening and their deadline dates. This also allows them to contact us easily if they need anything or have any questions.
4. To keep our staff interested, we make sure to have a little fun. Not only do we crown an “Editor-of-the-Deadline,” but we celebrate our accomplishments with a deadline party. We frequently bond as a staff and enjoy playing games to relax after stressful moments. Through these, we have gotten to know our staff members individually and therefore, have learned how to work with everyone separately.
Although managing an extracurricular staff is never the easiest, we have learned to make the best of it and appreciate all the hard work the editors put into the book.