April 7, 2002 / Spring 2002 / Staff Management

Fun as the Utimate Motivator

Written by Becky Tate

It was 8 p.m. Friday night.

The weather was unusually warm for the second week in February, and all other teachers and students scurried away from the building as soon as the 2:40 p.m. bell rang.

Even as their weekend began, I knew mine would not start until the 60 pages of proofs and 40 pages of Monday’s deadline were nestled safely in a UPS package.

I was not alone in my mission; 12 students worked alongside me.

For a moment, one of them questioned our efforts.

“Why do we do this,” Christina asked, making a sweeping gesture toward the stack of proofs at my feet, the writer’s stories she held in her hand and a photographer vainly searching for a lost negative. “Why do we do this anyway?”

It was a good question with only one answer — we do it for the fun of yearbook. Without the fun, it would not be the best, albeit busiest, part of our day.

But even as Christina answered her own question, she was pulled off the floor and tugged into the computer lab, where she joined seven other editors in an impromptu poultry contest.

As the bright yellow rubber chicken passed around the room, the editors who had “finaled” a spread gave the bird a big squeeze.

“Awwwwwwk,” it screeched as its stomach reinflated.

“Good one,” the editors praised Christina.

“Rrk,” the bird piped, the result of a tentative squeeze from Sean, a first-year editor.

“That’s OK,” the group reassured Sean. “Try it again, but this time really squeeze.”

Everyone took his or her chance, and just as quickly as the game began, it ended and the editors returned to their jobs.

I joined in, laughing at that crazy-looking chicken, enjoying how a little diversion lightened the deadline mood, propelling us closer and closer to meeting that deadline.

No surprise there — if I was not having fun, and the students were not having fun, we would not be there working on a Friday evening. We certainly would not care about all those small details the student body will probably never notice.

But we were having fun; almost enough fun to forget we were also working.

So, as Christina drifted back to my office, pen in hand, she did not question why we were working.

Instead, she questioned how we could improve what we were doing, even if it took a little more time. And that is what it is all about.

Becky Tate

Becky Tate, CJE, is the newspaper and yearbook adviser at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas, where her staffs have consistently earned All-American and Medalist ratings along with CSPA Crown and NSPA Pacemaker awards. Tate received a CSPA Gold Key in 2010, the JEA Medal of Merit in 2008 and the Jackie Engel Award for the Outstanding Kansas Journalism Teacher of the Year in 2001 from the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press. She was named a newspaper Special Recognition Adviser by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund in 1997 and a JEA Special Recognition Adviser in yearbook in 1999.