It Works For Me!
Written by Brady Smekens
Hints and Tips from Yearbook Advisers Publication Staffs “Rough It” at Weekend Retreat
As the busses pulled down the gravel road leading to Ouabache State Park’s campground, students stopped their chatter and began to peer out the dusty windows. What they saw was a barren area covered with grass, trees and more trees.
Nowhere could they spot a telephone, a swimming pool or a place to plug in their curling irons. Already staff members anticipated the onset of withdrawal symptoms resulting from MTV and fast food deficiencies.
After unloading their food and camping gear, the group of 40 students watched wistfully as the busses pulled out of the campground, leaving a trail of dust behind them.
Few would have imagined that 24 hours later the group would be brainstorming for ways to make next year’s summer publications retreat even better.
The event began more than two months earlier when editors from each of Huntington North High School’s three publication staffs met with their advisers to begin planning objectives for the retreat. The yearbook editors, who had already developed a theme at Ball State’s summer journalism workshop, wanted staff members to leave the retreat ready to tackle the specifics of coverage and design.
To accomplish that goal, student editors developed a schedule which included four hours of staff meetings. The yearbook staff divided into five small groups, with each group facing the challenge of generating the story topics, photo ideas and copy approaches for a specific section of the yearbook. Each group was equipped with the tools for effective brainstorming: a copy of last year’s book, a school calendar, a blank ladder, and several blank layout sheets. At the end of the day, the five groups came together to share their finished product and get feedback from the entire staff.
To help the staff stay on the right track, we recruited our Walsworth sales representative, Debbi Nelson, and hired Kirkwood (Mo.) High School yearbook adviser H.L. Hall to work with yearbook staff members. The end result was better than we could have imagined.
Assistance from experts outside of our school enabled students to bounce ideas off of someone other than their adviser. And with virtually all staff members present, the students were able to apply those ideas directly to the theme and coverage concept of the yearbook. We found that students were much more productive in this secluded environment than they had been in a classroom. In just four hours of group meetings editors and staff members were able to develop a concrete ladder and a starting point for spread design.
Aside from the “working” part of the retreat, students also enjoyed the opportunity to socialize with and compete against publications students from other staffs at Huntington North. Many long-standing barriers were broken as students worked together to pitch a tent or start a fire. And individual staffs bonded when faced with the challenge of out-doing the other staffs in team competitions, an evening talent show and a paddle boat race.
A day before the retreat began, I vowed I would never embark upon such a challenge again. Even though the editors were responsible for most of the logistics, as the yearbook adviser I spent at least one sleepless night worrying about all the potential problems.
But I realize now that nothing has had a greater impact on the spirit and quality of the publications program at Huntington North than this retreat. The morale which was built during that 24-hour period has snowballed with each passing week. Now we just need to keep that enthusiasm going until next summer