December 8, 2009 / Middle School Moment

Selection process for picking a middle school yearbook staff is vital

Written by Lesley Hagelgans

Selecting a staff to produce the middle school yearbook can be challenging. Most students think that working on the yearbook means one thing: taking pictures. They also think creating the yearbook would be a lot of fun, and they are right. The class is a lot of fun, but publishing a memoir of school life is also a lot of hard work.

The challenge for a middle school adviser trying to implement yearbook best practices is a balance of giving students an opportunity to explore a new, enriching possibility while enlisting responsible individuals to produce a high-quality product. This all begins with the selection process.

At our school, yearbook is only available to eighth graders who have a class known as Enrichment. Two weeks before school ends for the summer, I visit every seventh grade Enrichment classroom and talk with the students about yearbook. I tell them all about the class and what responsibilities are involved with producing the yearbook. I share with them the contract that all yearbook members, their parents, the adviser and the principal sign.

The contract outlines elements of the class, such as academic and behavioral expectations, equipment use, and responsibilities such as meeting deadlines and covering school events. After my presentation, I leave a stack of applications for anyone who is interested in signing up for yearbook.

Students who are interested in signing up must submit an application.  They are required to write an article showing why they want to be on the yearbook staff. They are also required to get a recommendation by a parent and two former teachers. The teacher recommendations are submitted directly to me, not by the student.

Once the deadline for applications passes, I put together a list of applicants. I send this list to all of the faculty and staff members in our building, and I ask for their input on the candidates. If a candidate gets three negative responses, then they are removed from the list of potential staff members.

After the questionable candidates have been removed, the remaining candidates are notified that they have been selected to be a part of the yearbook staff for the following school year. All of the candidates and their parents will sign a contract the first week of school in the fall. At any time a staff member may be removed from staff if they violate the terms of that contract.

During the school year, staff members will experience every part of creating the yearbook, including sales, planning, writing, editing, designing pages and taking photographs. This keeps with middle school best practices, which encourage opportunities for exploratory learning.

The process I use for selecting a staff, which has evolved over the past seven years, seems to yield a diverse group of young people capable of meeting and exceeding my expectations year after year.

Yearbook Staff Contract

Lesley Hagelgans

Lesley Hagelgans is a language arts teacher and yearbook adviser at Marshall Middle School in Marshall, Michigan. She was co-editor of her high school newspaper in her junior and senior years. She enjoys yearbook because students are "all working on something different that interests them at any given time, which is a great platform for authentic learning."