October 16, 2012 / Fall 2012 / Teaching Moments

It’s their yearbook

Written by Carla McCubbin

Advising a middle school yearbook staff sometimes feels like a game of telephone. Remember that game? You whisper, “I like cheese,” to the first person in line, only to end up with, “Did you know that Sarah is dating Bobby?” at the end of the line.

Take the theme. One day the theme is “Diversity,” the next it’s “Superheroes.” I feel like a kindergarten teacher who is having her students hold hands as they walk down the hall to ensure that everyone gets to their destination on time and together.

To keep consistency and cohesion throughout their yearbook, middle school students need frequent deadlines, more staff meetings, more incentives and more celebrations. Eventually the kids find their place and hand holding becomes follow the leader — I become the leader. Then, it looks like players on a team — I am the coach. And finally, my ideas are no longer needed and the kids’ ideas become the only ideas as they take the reins of their book — I now become just another rider.

I’ve used several methods of advising and completing a yearbook, but the outcome has always been the same — a piece of history for everyone to enjoy.

Despite the long hours or moments of amazing discovery, nothing can hold a candle to distribution day, when a year’s worth of hard work goes public, and the school gets to see what that line of kids holding hands down the hall is all about. For me, it is the best day of the school year.

As I sit at my desk looking at this year’s yearbook, I can’t help but see the minor imperfections, posed photographs and loud, in-your-face spreads. But for a moment I step out of my role as teacher and into the role of reader, or more importantly, fan. I see the authentic portrayal of the year. As I type this, I look over my monitor and see kids laughing, pointing, oohing and ahhing over their own creation. What matters to me as an adult doesn’t apply here. I can almost read the thoughts of these young, inexperienced authors: “I made this,” and, “Look, I took that picture.”

These moments quickly spread throughout the school. I hear words like, “This yearbook is the best one yet!” or “This yearbook is better than my brother’s in high school!” and my favorite, “I can’t believe I’m finally in the yearbook, this is so cool!” It’s clear my job has become one of the most important on campus.

I am so proud of my staff and all of their hard work, and this momentous occasion of viewing the yearbook for the first time brings tears to my eyes every year.

I am responsible for making sure that students remember their moments, their way. I wouldn’t trade this job for the world.

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Carla McCubbin