Set Middle School Expectations to High School

Written by Heather Keller

Middle school students are scary, to put it mildly. Turning them loose with digital cameras, computers and the internet could turn into something from a bad horror film. Beyond all that could and did go wrong during the fifth period communications class, the staff did publish a yearbook last year. We made a ton of mistakes, left in a few too many typos, but ensured that everyone’s picture showed up in the book at least one time. For a 72-page book with a first-year adviser, things went well.

Even as a first-year adviser at Boliver Middle School in Bolivar, Tenn., I felt an immediate responsibility as a yearbook sponsor to prepare my middle school students for the high school yearbook staff. Our high school yearbook staff is run like a small business, not a school club. It is a serious undertaking that turns into quite an impressive book. So my middle school babies had better grasp some understanding of how things work before they leave me, and the safer middle school environment, and attempt to apply for the high school staff.

Among the most important things I did last year, I attempted to instill responsibility in my staff. I worked to create a sense of urgency along with an understanding of deadlines. I did kick out students who missed deadlines. By making them responsible for all aspects of layout and design, the staff members who successfully completed the class have an excellent understanding of what it takes to publish a book.

I also made them responsible for editing each other’s work and then turning it in to me for a final edit. When I found things that were unacceptable (passive voice verbs!), I would not fuss at the writer, but at the editor. After a few writing deadlines, students began to be a little harder on each other’s writing and began to be more critical.

Last year, I told them how much money we had, what things cost, and how much we needed to sell to do what they wanted to do with our book. Staff members returning this year already understand our finances for this year.

Even though they can be scary, middle school students are like all people – they just want to know what is expected of them. And each school year, I will expect even more of them.

Heather Keller