April 3, 2003 / Spring 2003 / Staff Management

All Play, No Work

Written by Alan Goforth

Ah, summer vacation. There is nothing quite like long, lazy days filled with swimming, barbecues and… a yearbook workshop?

“It’s a great way to get a jump start on the school year,” said Mary Ann Akerman, yearbook adviser at Beloit Memorial High School in Beloit, Wis.

She has missed only one workshop in the past decade and usually brings from three to five students. That attitude is music to the ears of Valerie Tanke, Walsworth yearbook representative in Indiana.

“We try to stress the importance of getting a jump start on the year, which ultimately makes the yearbook have a smoother start,” she said. “Getting this message across can be difficult; however, once an adviser and staff attend a workshop, they come back every year.”

Finding the Time

The challenge, of course, is helping editors and staff members schedule a workshop among summer vacations, part-time jobs and sports leagues.

“When you have bright, energetic and talented students, they’re generally very busy — even in the summer,” said Brent Busboom, yearbook adviser at Reno High School in Reno, Nev. “Thus, you have to work around band camps, football and cheerleading practices, family vacations, etc. Some students even take summer school just so they can fit yearbook into their schedule.”

It is not always easy for advisers, either.

“For the last three years, my wife and I haven’t celebrated our anniversary on its actual day because I’ve been off at camp,” Busboom said. “Thankfully, this year the camp dates are different.”

However, most editors understand the value of a workshop and will find a way to include one in their schedule.

“Editors are very dedicated as well as concerned about getting a jump start on their book, so they are pretty enthusiastic about attending camp,” said Desiree Keresztury Coulter, a former Walsworth yearbook representative who now is the yearbook adviser at Mesa Verde High School in Citrus Heights, Calif.

The key is scheduling the workshop early and informing the staff about the dates, said Nora Guiney, Walsworth yearbook representative in Michigan.

“We really don’t have very much trouble getting attendees,” she said. “Most of our schools make it a part of the application to apply for yearbook. Our schools try to encourage the entire staff to be in attendance.” Perhaps the best motivation is the drive and determination that led students to join the yearbook staff in the first place.

“The staff members are new to their positions as editors and want to put together a better book than the one they just finished,” Akerman said. Their attitude, she said, is “this book was great, but ours is going to be fantastic!”


Successful advisers know what to expect at a workshop and what they hope to accomplish.

“My staff’s main purposes for attending a summer workshop are to train in yearbook journalism, develop a theme concept and plan the direction the book will take for the upcoming year,” Coulter said. “They also begin the all-important staff-bonding process and develop personal relationships with one another.”

Busboom has similar expectations.

“I want a staff to come together as a group, to learn the skills necessary to producing a high-quality yearbook and to see what a valuable and important task they are about to undertake,” he said.

Walsworth is committed to providing information that addresses these needs.

“We try to present the latest in design, copy writing and, most importantly, technology,” Tanke said. “The technology changes yearly. We also bring in new instructors to keep the information fresh each year.”

Workshops are designed to be practical as well as theoretical, Guiney added.

“We teach marketing skills, such as how to sell advertising and raise money for the book,” she said. “We also cover theme, layout and design, desktop publishing, and digital imaging. At camp, I expect that editors will decide on a theme, map out the ladder, get a strong idea of design themes for layouts, complete several layouts (particularly for division pages), and develop a cover and endsheets.”

Melinda Thompson, yearbook adviser at Wapahani High School, Selma, Ind., said her expectations were met last summer.

“I wanted the girls to get clear direction on where the book was going this year,” she said. “I wanted them to come away with theme ideas, staff organization and a ladder. We accomplished all of that. It was money well spent.”

First Things First

Summer workshop veterans recommend sitting down as a staff and brainstorming before heading to a workshop. This involves practical considerations as well as abstract ideas.

“Get the materials ready they are going to need, such as rubber cement, idea magazines and photos from previous years,” said Mike Archer, Walsworth yearbook representative in Washington state.

“They should have at least one meeting as a group to have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish at the workshop, whether it’s specific skills, communication issues with the staff or just camaraderie with each other.”

Akerman recommends bringing along these specific items:

  • Personal idea files, which are “folders with magazine type, pictures, graphics, layouts, etc., that they like — you never know where a good idea can be found.
  • Snacks and beverages “for grazing during work time.”
  • CDs and personal headphones, because “we don’t all like the same music.

Busboom has an even more practical suggestion.

“Get lots of sleep, because they won’t get much while they’re there,” he said. “But seriously, I think it helps if they come in with ideas on what theme they want to develop, what they want to do graphically and how they are going to develop their coverage.

“This might all change after they arrive, but without a basic blueprint to work from, I don’t think staffs can fully take advantage of the instructors at the camp.”

Paul Pruitt, yearbook adviser at Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, Calif., likes to stock up on ideas.

“Look at magazines, catalogs and sales items meant for teenagers to bring ideas to the meeting,” he said. “Seeing what every other school has done is helpful, but new ideas and pushing the technology is what makes it fun for our students. During camp, there is no limit to what we will do. The limits come when we discover what we can do.”

Planning Pays Off

Staffs and advisers who plan ahead usually get the most out of a workshop, Tanke said.

“Come with a clear idea of what you want to learn and a direction of what you want to have accomplished before you leave,” she said. “It’s great to think only about yearbook for several days. Your staff can really concentrate and accomplish a lot in the concentrated time.”

Returning participants will find that Walsworth is continually adding new wrinkles to keep workshops fresh and relevant.

“Walsworth has been very receptive to input from advisers and staff members who attend camp,” said Elaine Grace, yearbook adviser at Monarch High School, Boulder, Colo. “The second year I attended camp, they changed the format to allow more breakout sessions for students and advisers with different skill levels. This past summer, they also had experienced advisers and staff members teach or lead several of the workshops.”

Team building has become a key focus, Tanke said.

“In the past few years, our workshop has tried to stress team-building activities for the staffs,” she said. “It is important for staff members to learn to work together to produce a quality yearbook.”

More than Simply Work

Summer workshops can be intense, but Walsworth also makes them fun.

“Walsworth representatives have morning and evening social activities — pizza parties, ice cream socials, dancing, games, and songs,’ Coulter said. “They also hire quality instructors who, more than just knowing their yearbook stuff, have fun and inspiring personalities.”

As with the training itself, Walsworth tries to add new activities each summer.

‘This year, we are having a Hawaiian luau for the kids,” Guiney said. ‘The hotel is setting up a tent outside, and we will be showing movies plus having our luau around the pool area. In the past, we have rented a go-cart and miniature golf park for a few hours for the kids. We try something different each year to keep their interest.”

All of these activities help build staff unity, Pruitt said. “Late-night ice cream socials, pizza runs at midnight and other ‘it’s-OK-to-be-a-college-kid-even-when-you’re-not’ activities let the kids blow off steam and still accomplish huge gains during the short three days,” he said.

For all of the expectations and preparations, summer workshop is over all too quickly. The challenge for advisers and editors is to keep the enthusiasm and momentum going and get other staff

“If possible, gather the staff between when you return from the workshop and before the first day of school,” Coulter said. “Plan icebreakers, bring food and get know each other.

“In addition, be excited about starting the school year and in explaining the work you did at the workshop and ideas you have for the book. Make sure the staff knows they’ll have approval input about final decisions — but if you’re really enthusiastic and can explain how your ideas will work for the year, the staff members that weren’t able to attend the workshop should easily join in the spirit and give their stamp of approval.”

The dog days of summer will quickly turn into the hectic days of September. When the school bell rings, yearbook staffers will be glad they spent a small part of their summer vacation planning ahead.

“A jump start on the year makes the whole process fun,” Pruitt said. “When you are ahead of the game and have the deadlines planned and agreed to before the school year starts, it is so easy. Yes, things will change and new events will need to be added, but overall the staff can focus on the process, not the discovery.”

‘A jump start on the year makes the whole process fun,” Pruitt said. “When you are ahead of the game and have the deadlines planned and agreed to before the school year starts, it is so easy. Yes, things will change and new events will need to be added, but overall the staff can focus on the process, not the discovery.”

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Alan Goforth