March 1, 2012 / Spring 2012 / Staff Management

Functional equals cool in the yearbook room

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Successful teachers know their classroom should be an inviting place that aids learning. If your students are spending afternoons, nights and weekends in there also, as yearbook staff members often do, maybe your room should be more than that.

Many of them are. Not the entire classroom, but there are nice touches that make students feel welcome.

“The most popular feature is that the room has a couple of couches they can lounge on and generally feels like home to the almost 180 students who are involved in journalism,” Michael Tyler, adviser at Saratoga High School in Saratoga, Calif., said.

“The students tend to eat a lot of food here and hang out here when they don’t have other classes,” he said.

Tyler may have room for couches because he was lucky enough to help design the J-room when Saratoga High was remodeled a few years ago. He had a say in the L-shaped room that has a teaching space, and area for 33 iMacs and a back storage room.

Most advisers have to work with the room they are given. That means functionality comes first. There are things you can do to make your yearbook room a cool place to work. Start with the walls. Advisers and staffs use them to communicate, motivate, educate and decorate. Here are ideas carried out in classrooms that keep the fun in functional.

Taking care of monkeys

Cleaning and organizing turned a built-in bookcase into a usable space at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va. The new curtains at the bottom, made by Adviser Christal Pearson’s mother-in-law, hide the archive of the Black Swan yearbook.

Cleaning and organizing turned a built-in bookcase into a usable space at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va. The new curtains at the bottom, made by Adviser Christal Pearson’s mother-in-law, hide the archive of the Black Swan yearbook.

You could use the regular whiteboard to have students sign in and out of class. But Janet Klotz, adviser at Kucera Middle School, Rialto, Calif., created a large one divided with electrical tape into 20 sections to keep track of her staff.

Each of the 20 staff members has their own section, with their own neon-colored monkey. The monkey has their name on it, and their press pass clipped to it. Next to the monkey they write what time they left, where they are going, what they are doing and when they will be back. They take their Yearbook Staff Press Pass with them as their hallway pass.

“They are monkeys because when I went to yearbook camp the first time, the director talked about how each student’s individual problem can become a monkey on the adviser’s back. They also discussed how to make sure that the students handled their own monkeys (problems) so that the adviser wasn’t juggling more monkeys than necessary,” Klotz said.

Students get to choose their monkey color and location on the board, so they have bought into the idea, she said. They like the convenience of it, because it is quicker than writing a hall pass. Most of the time, the students use it like they should to sign out. But great inventions are not without their problems.

“At the beginning of the year they like to write “HI SO-and-SO” or draw pictures next to their monkeys of trees and bananas.  After some discussion about how it was abuse of the privilege and wasting the markers, they have stopped abusing it,” Klotz said.

Reclaiming space

New furniture, staff photos and a painting of a black swan (the name of the yearbook) were part of the remodeling to turn a storage room into a pleasant workroom for staff members at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va.

New furniture, staff photos and a painting of a black swan (the name of the yearbook) were part of the remodeling to turn a storage room into a pleasant workroom for staff members at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va.

The filthy, disorganized and cluttered 12-by-8-foot space had potential. With some help, Christal Pearson turned what had been the yearbook office into a yearbook workroom for her staff at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va.

Pearson, during her first year as adviser in 2010-2011, just kept thinking about the office attached to her classroom that was being used for storage. The room even has a wall-length, floor-to-ceiling bookcase, with the bottom of the bookcase holding the archive of the past 81 issues of the Black Swan, the school’s yearbook.

So one week last summer, Pearson and her husband cleaned and painted the room. To cover the archive at the bottom of the bookcase, her mother-in-law sewed a curtain with a black-and-white paw-print design in honor of the school’s Terrier mascot. And Pearson went shopping one afternoon with the school bookkeeper for furniture, decorations, and supplies.

The room’s color scheme is black, white and turquoise. The walls are white, and a Black Swan was painted on the dominant wall. Four desks were added, each with a chair, desk lamp and trash can in turquoise. Supplies are kept in turquoise and black storage baskets on the bookcase and messages are exchanged on a corkboard and whiteboard.

Everyone’s favorite feature is the “Wall of Fame,” where the photos of each staff member are hung around the Black Swan painting, Pearson said.

“I wanted the room to be a cozy and inspiring place where my staff would want to work,” Pearson said. “Now that the room is clean and organized, my students can work comfortably in there and they have a space to call their own.”

Pearson added, “The space is actually functional for storage and work, so I have found that my classroom is much less cluttered with yearbook stuff.”

Wall-to-wall coverage

This panoramic view shows much of the space in which the 20 members of the Seattle Preparatory School yearbook staff live and work. The room is a good mix of work space, inspiration and accolades.

This panoramic view shows much of the space in which the 20 members of the Seattle Preparatory School yearbook staff live and work. The room is a good mix of work space, inspiration and accolades.

The hub of the yearbook room at Seattle Preparatory School in Seattle, Wash., is not in the center, it is on the walls. The daily work and the successes of past staffs are posted all around the room.

The most prominent wall feature is the ladder. The giant whiteboard, with 176 spots for each page of the yearbook, was specially made several years ago by a yearbook staffer’s dad, said Michael Danielson, adviser.

“Our whole ladder – you can see it from across the room,” Danielson said.

One wall has a calendar with school events on it. Next to it is the “Wall of Ideas,” where students post design ideas and page layouts they clipped from magazines. Staff members are encouraged to cut something out when they see something cool and put it up.

“Its purpose is not to copy, but to check for ideas and then if using one, to keep it consistent,” he said.

Danielson, who has been advising the yearbook for 15 years, said the wall of ideas has evolved during the past five to eight years. At first, students were just cutting out and taping up interesting design ideas. But some editors, who were looking for a way to keep design consistent throughout the yearbook, began using it to shape design concepts and then point to those concepts to provide direction and consistency to staff members throughout the year.

Also hanging are 10 23-by-8-inch frames with the covers from the last 10 yearbooks, 10 Gallery of Excellence plaques from Walsworth, and a “What’s Going On?” whiteboard where a variety of information is posted, such as senior superlatives.

The large room is divided in half by a three-shelf, three-foot-high, 18-foot-long bookcase. The newspaper staff occupies the other half of the room.

The room comes equipped with 12 iMacs, one microwave and one big blue work table. Some of the space under the blue table is used to hide supplies from the newspaper staff – such as large quantities of food from Costco.

  • margaret thielman

    Hi, I’m intrigued by your whiteboard ladder. Can you please send me a picture or any ideas for how we could make our own?
    Thanks

    • Elizabeth Braden

      Hi Margaret,
      There is a photo of it in the spring issue of Idea File magazine. Do you have a copy of that? If not, I think I can email you a photo.
      Elizabeth

  • margaret

    Thanks, I knew I had seen it somewhere. I have a copy. I’m wondering, though, what are the lines made of? Are they just drawn on?
    Thank you again.

    • Elizabeth Braden

      I don’t believe those black lines are drawn on. Since the board was specially made, those are inprinted. But everything else is written. I would use colored tape to create those lines and then use different colored dry erase markers, like they do here. It’s also cool that there are two places, on the left and right, for notes, that the ladder does not fill up the entire board. With a 176-page book, you can imagine how big this board is.

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE
Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the editor of Idea File magazine. She has been a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 10 years, writing articles for walsworthyearbooks.com and marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. She has taught at Adviser Academy. Her career has included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.