For the Love of Yearbook

Written by Brian Flamm

You can get your staff to cheer about yearbook. Trevor Johnson, the yearbook adviser at Sherando High School in Stephens City, Va., gets his staff to cheer and play games, all in the interest of motivating students to a new level of dedication to the yearbook.

Between teaching journalism, photography and design, and meeting deadlines, it seems difficult for advisers to find time for much else, let alone building team motivation.

“Through my graduate courses in administration I found that team building and leadership was important. So I set out to incorporate some of those items into the class all year long and I think it really paid dividends,” Johnson said.

He designed a team-building curriculum that runs independently from his working yearbook curriculum. The overall feeling of Johnson and his students is that the time devoted to team building translates to a level of motivation and enthusiasm that make up for any class time lost.

“This (2006) was my 10th year as an adviser. Of all 10 years, it was the first time that I implemented a team-building framework, and it was also the first time that we made every single deadline – I think that speaks for itself,” Johnson said.

Staff members can testify that the team-building curriculum has tightened the bond of the staff and has improved performance.

“Every class period he makes sure we know how important this is to him. Before we come into class he will shake every person’s hand before we walk in the door – he’s done that every single day and he’s never let us down,” Leah Metheny, a 2006 senior, said. “He gives us a quote every day to reflect on and relate to. We have come to really appreciate his dedication to it. He is so dedicated to the staff that we feel like we need to give that back to him in return.”

So again this year, Johnson greets The Tribe staff with a handshake or chest bump. Each yearbook class period ends with the staff cheer, with clapping, stomping, and movements from vacuuming to river dance and disco. They also have teams, the Johnsons and the Anti-Johnsons, which compete in friendly yet fierce monthly competitions. Two students from each team plan and run each activity, which lasts 10 to 15 minutes. The theme of each activity is tied into the theme of the yearbook.

For the September activity this year, the staff dressed as “Ivy Leaguers” and participated in a scavenger hunt, with diplomas hidden around the school.

For the 2006 theme – “It’s not just black and white” – each activity day was a ‘color day’ and the activity was required to relate to that day’s color, which was worn by the staff. One of the activities was Rainbow Day, where each team had to find six different colored items in the school and take a digital picture with the whole team in the shot. The teams were judged on completion of the task and the creativity of the results, the usual things for which yearbook students get graded.

“I think the team building activities this year got a more positive attitude going around,” Grant Meeker, a 2006 senior, said. “This allowed us to get the most out of a larger staff. With the attitude and the atmosphere, we just all pitched in to help everyone instead of people concentrating on their own stuff.”

In addition, Johnson instituted a Secret Pal program. Secret pals bring small gifts to class anonymously and put them in the Secret Pal Cubby. A party with public distribution of gifts is held for holidays, birthdays and the end of the year.

Any visitor to Johnson’s class quickly realizes that it takes something more than a good set of lesson plans to make this all work. Johnson said that the atmosphere of motivation he has created has a lot to do with his personal approach to the job.

“The students know that I really do care. I care about the product, but more importantly I care about them,” Johnson said. “They don’t do it for the grades – there is a passion that they have for creating the yearbook and we do have a bond which we have created for many of them since freshmen year.”

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Brian Flamm