If I could do it over again…

by Idea File Staff
Posted in: Staff Management

The position of yearbook adviser can be a tough one, especially in those first few years on the job.

For all the experienced advisers out there who now know the ropes, if you could go back to those first few years what would you go back and do differently?

Give us your comments below!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Nunn Winship May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

When I was “handed the keys” to the yearbook class, the outgoing adviser told me that I wasn’t to worry, the kids knew what to do. She spent less than an hour with me to share her 30+ years’ experience. My mistake was to rely on the students and stayed out of their way while they put the yearbook together. They lost all respect for me as an adviser, and basically ignored me, sharing little of their information.

The second year is just coming to a close. I was more actively involved with the production, but still did not have a good idea of how to conduct the class. The editor would not meet with me outside of class and spent class time plugged into her computer. Against my better judgement, I went with the path of least resistance and let the staff control the situation. Never again!

I have one returning staffer, who will be one of my co-editors. She is quiet and shy, but knows the routine as far as assembling the book. I located and brought on board another student, who is brash and pushy (as well as dedicated to succeeding at her endeavors) who will wrangle the unwilling staffers. I will not know who my staffers are until after the office assigns students to individual classes. I will receive students who need an elective at that time. Not the best situation, and the editors have been clued in that they need to work with me to compensate for that problem.

Both editors know I expect them to meet with me at least once a week outside of class. They understand that I will be taking a more active role in pushing deadlines, fundraisers, sales campaigns and mini-lessons. I will not dictate the content or style of the book, but I will hold the students accountable for including more copy, more candids, and for greater inclusion of the students who are not seniors, in sports, in clubs or are the ASB officers.

That was my one real success this year. I was able to talk my editor into breaking with tradition and include more of the underclassmen, as well as limiting the number of times any one student could be portrayed (just because X is in every club and sport does not mean that X should also be half the candids).

This fall, as my group coalesces, I will figuratively crack the whip. The faint of heart might run to the counselor and beg out–that’s OK. The rest will understand I am in charge (even though they have all the editorial say). That’s what I’m doing differently this upcoming year.


Sharlene April 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Good for you making them add more than just the seniors in your book. I know at my school a lot more freshmen and sophomores have been buying the book than seniors because they have learned that it is no longer a mainly senior photo book. It has increased my sales as well because they want to have a copy of themselves in the book.


Kaelee April 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm

MY biggest mistake was not letting the kids do enough. I should have given my editors fewer spreads and had them share the task of managing everyone else’s pages, the formatting, editing, and the submission process. I kind of thought, “well, if they don’t do it the way they are supposed to, I will just go in and change it when they are done.” The mistake here is that I was changing margins, fonts, text size, borders, etc, all just before deadlines. Advice: make this the editor’s main focus, and grade the editor on their management of other’s spreads.


Amy January 31, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Finding everyone’s role—
In leadership there are 3 different categories: your decison, our decision, and my decision. Staffers need to understand when yearbook decisions are the editors choice, when its a team effort, and when the adviser makes the call. This has become very clear to me in the last several years and it transfers directly into the workplace.


Sharlene April 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I have just completed my third book and my experience is a world of difference than it was my first year. During my first year I had to compete with five seniors who had done yearbook for three years. I had NO experience whatsoever, not even when I was in high school myself. I had to try to learn what was going on, how to do everything, and deal with five girls (read High Drama Levels) who didn’t care what I said or thought; they were going to do what they wanted. When I made suggested changes to their pages I would get eye rolls and half hearted agreement, and then they would proceed to do what they wanted. Now, I help the editors set up the ladder, ensure that we are covering ALL students and clubs (some hadn’t been getting covered because people thought they were unimportant), give out deadlines that are actually followed, and have most of the staff calling me Mom both in and out of the classroom.
I got an idea from another yearbook adviser to create a month by month guide of the things I need to do to successfully complete the book without too much headache and panic. I took what he gave me, adapted it to my own needs, and added many more pieces of information than he had given me. I even make notes in it about things that didn’t go the way I wanted with lessons so that next year I can remind myself what didn’t work and why.
I have increased the number of editors on staff from one main editor who has to supervise everyone all the time (can you imagine the burn out on that poor kid) to having five section editors, a managing editor, and an editor in chief. The managing editor is in training to be the editor in chief, the section editors cover each of their sections and answer to the managing editor, both the editor in chief and the managing editor answer to me. If there is a problem they can’t solve, we tackle it together.
But I think the biggest thing I have learned is to have some fun with the kids. We eat, we celebrate birthdays, we celebrate meeting deadlines, selling ads, when our seniors are accepted to that all important college of their choosing, pi day, and once a month I pick a “just because you guys are special” day. We have music during class (on a rotating basis so we all learn a little bit about other types of music) . In all I want this experience to be a great one for the kids. We all know there is a lot of pressure on them in other academic classes and yearbook can have it’s own stress things too, but if we can all laugh at least once in class each time we meet, then I feel like I have done something good for these kids, and in return, I get a lot of good out of it too.


Laquita Ward April 6, 2015 at 2:24 pm

I would love a copy of your calendar!


Sharlene April 7, 2015 at 8:33 am

Send me your email. Mine is sschoenhardt@rockingham.k12.va.us and I will be glad to share

melissa auteri May 4, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Can you send me a copy of your calendar too? Thanks!! melrosey209@yahoo.com

charlotte marlow-mosby May 20, 2013 at 10:51 am

My advice is to get to know your students and the work ability. I get the students to fill out and appilication. This tell me alot about what each student can do.


Deb September 23, 2013 at 5:56 am

Well, 12 years ago I was asked to be the yearbook adviser for Dr. Phillips HIgh School. At that time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Somehow with 3 good yearbook students who worked themselves silly and me, with no knowledge at all, we weathered through that first year. The book was passable and I was praised for the good job. The sad part was there was no one to train me. No one to help. My yearbook rep stepped in and told me to go to NSPA, CSPA and her summer workshop. I did. It helped. I learned so much. Since then it’s gotten more and more streamlined. I was still sending in hard copies and using Pagemaker all those years ago. Thinkgs have completely changed no with the digital age and Indesign. I now have about 30 students on staff and do not only the yearbook but the newspaper as well. It has become a labor of love. My students are well trained. I will retire in a few years, but till then, I hope to train my successor and show her/him the ropes. There’s nothing easy about learning everything I’ve learned, but the coolest part is that I get to spend 4 years with most of my students. I really become their “mom” away from home. This is the best part of doing this — the students. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.


bradley prier April 28, 2014 at 2:14 pm

From a student editor’s point of view, it is important to talk with your students. Another great thing to do is have a common design between your pages as well as have students compete against eachother for the best pages and have yourself select the better. Make sure your book has continuity! very important! also don’t be afraid to help students out, so know the program yourself!


Julie October 30, 2014 at 1:19 pm

I worked on yearbook in high school and in college, but that was back in the 80′s, so things had changed between then and 2014! There were no returning students from the previous year’s yearbook class, so we were starting with a green group and a teacher who hadn’t done a book this century. Thank goodness for the educational materials supplied by Walsworth, because that’s what got us through the first nine weeks. We went with a visual theme because it was easier for the students to work with, and we started journaling which hadn’t been done in many years.

In the past only juniors and seniors were allowed to be on the staff. I changed that rule to allow sophomores because we needed underclass students to help with getting pictures from those grades, identify students for journaling, and to take leadership positions on the staff for the next school year.

I was a new teacher in the district last year so I didn’t know any of the students. Had I known the students better I would have made some changes to the editorial staff because I had some seniors in those positions who were not looking at the big picture. I also had to fight again the “clique” mentality that some students had and get them to work together.

Something must have gone right, however, because I had a waiting list of students wanting to be in the class this year. They are working together as a team, they are coming up with fantastic promotional ideas, and we are already ahead on book sales compared to last year. Here’s to a fantastic 2015 everyone!


Vanessa A. January 15, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I teach yearbook at the middle school level.

When I got the job, I was just kind of thrusted into yearbook. I had gotten the job as a Speech (public speaking/debate, etc) teacher, and it just so happened the teacher who I replaced also taught yearbook. Did I mention that they didn’t use a company? All they did was do it on computers and used the school printers to print out the yearbooks for students. Anyways….

My first year I was CLUELESS. I picked a yearbook company because it was cheap, but the rep never came to help. Any question I had, I had to learn through trial and error. Because I was so fresh, I allowed the students to do it ALL. There was no staff, it was a free-for-all, and the yearbook resembled that. Although it looked “better” than previous years because it was actually published, it was horrible. Every page had a different background, and every layout was different.

It was a typical collage type yearbook that is produced by many elementary/middle schools. After my first year I attended a Walsworth workshop that was put on in my district and I was BLOWN AWAY. I learned so much, and thankfully my knowledge of yearbook has gotten better and so has my teaching. Now my yearbooks are light-years away from what they were and my students enter the high school will so much knowledge in their back pocket.


Sandy P. March 24, 2015 at 10:46 am

I was basically thrust into this position as well. One detractor from Yearbook is that there is usually one sponsor, and when that sponsor gets replaced, there is no experience to draw on. Within days, you’re expected to be a professional photographer, a graphic artist, a marketer, a salesman, a CEO and teach all of this to your students. It can be overwhelming, especially when you add on multiple preps from the other classes you’re teaching.

My advise is to research as much as possible. Youtube vids are great for teaching the basics of photography. The internet has a plethora of sample pages. Go to the library and look at the yearbooks from previous years. Go home and have fun exploring your design program. Whatever you decide to teach yourself, teach the kids at the same time. As teachers, we know that teaching others allows us to better understand the material ourselves. It seems overwhelming…and you will make mistakes your first year or two, but you can do this.

Lastly, make sure you let the students know that this is a class. There are grades. There are expectations that have to be met. There is room for creative freedom, and the teacher’s role is mostly as facilitator, but you can’t allow too much free reign. Not if you want to meet your deadlines. Just remember to keep the channels of communication open between you and your staff. Check the page ladder daily. Keep on them about their progress. Give feedback.


Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous article:

Next article: