From complaints to confidence
Written by Brandt Ayoub
Three years ago, a “spread” was Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner on the dining room table. A “gutter” was what I helped Dad clean leaves out of in the fall. A yearbook was what I automatically received every year in college, but to which I paid little attention.
Then, at the conclusion of a promising interview for my first-ever teaching job, the principal broke the news that the position wasn’t simply to teach 9th grade English, but yearbook as well. As a recent grad desperately in need of a job, I eagerly accepted, and was quickly and painfully exposed to the unknown world of yearbook.
One week in, I was utterly overwhelmed. How do I work this online program? Where will I get all my pictures? What do my students do in class every day, when I have no pictures yet? Wait, I’m in charge of school picture day? Every day, I left work discouraged simply because I didn’t “get” it. To top it off, I’d inherited a staff of students who were more interested in high school drama than anything yearbook-related.
That first year’s book was printed-and-bound evidence of my incompetence in advising a yearbook program. When the book was released, I suddenly found errors I hadn’t seen in the less-than-thorough editing stage. Students’ names were scrambled. Caption size was inconsistent. Seniors’ photos were missing. Soon, parents and students complained; in fact, some parents threatened a lawsuit.
I began year two in utter fear of failure. So I micromanaged and graded every student, every day. I created checklists, rubrics and guidelines galore. I dedicated endless hours on Sunday afternoons to my yearbook program. I made certain the second book was successful (and it was!), but I exhausted myself in doing so. When I finally hit “submit” on the final page one month into my summer vacation, I vowed I would either figure out a way to successfully manage yearbook, or begin the job search.
I didn’t begin the job search. After dedicating minimal time over the summer into designing a newer curriculum, my yearbook class has improved remarkably. I attribute this improvement to the fact that I get it now. I know what to expect and how to prepare my students. I’ve found the balance between demanding individual responsibility and managing — but not micromanaging — each student. Students are apparently excited, the class is trying new marketing strategies, and we’ve selected a trendy theme that has the student body engaged in submitting its own photos. This year, it feels as if I’m leading a team, not micromanaging a random group of students.
It was common to hear me complain about my position as yearbook adviser during my first two years. But now, yearbook is (dare I say it?) fun! It’s rewarding to see students engaged in creating a trendy book; I’m comforted after the success of last year’s production.
In those first two years, I didn’t believe it was possible to ever feel confident in advising the program. However, I’ve transitioned to running a program with personal confidence. This year, that confidence has made all the difference.