March 13, 2012 / Spring 2012 / Staff Management

Seven benefits of advising yearbook

Written by Jim Jordan

Thirty years? Where did the time go? I am currently in the process of guiding my 30th staff through the challenging, but always amazing, journey of creating a yearbook. Most advisers never make it this far. Every year I have the privilege of working with bright, talented, creative kids who come together as a team to create something beautiful through words, photos and design that will last a lifetime. As I say to them every year, “It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.”  Through it all I am still here, helping kids create their book, and here are some of the reasons why I still love yearbook and the process of bringing one to life.

1. You work with the best students at your school – at least, you should.

This is crucial: You have to figure out how to get the brightest, most talented, most creative, hardest-working students in your school into your program. Promise them anything – free food, great letters of recommendation, the experience of a lifetime. But find a way to get them into your program.

I also teach AP Language and Composition to juniors, and I have always been able to coerce a few of them to be on yearbook the next year. When you get them, amazing things will always happen. They learn quickly and some even work themselves into editor position by the end of the first quarter. I love seeing them fully engage in the process and grow as they get to use their talents and skills and get excited about creating an amazing book. Plus, they keep me feeling young. It is a privilege to be a part of their lives.

2. You help them develop 21st century skills.

When the educational experts talk about the skills students will need not only to survive, but thrive in today’s world of work, those skills also are an integral part of producing a great yearbook – creativity and innovation; critical thinking and problem solving; communication and collaboration; flexibility and adaptability; initiative and self direction; productivity and accountability; leadership and responsibility.

Having and developing each of these skills will equip young people to meet their future.  As a career educator, I feel great satisfaction about what the yearbook process provides to any student who decides to fully take on the challenge of creating an extraordinary yearbook.

3. Your students create a book that will last beyond a lifetime.

The product we create truly is the only lasting record of the school. If we do not capture it in the book, in just a few short years it will all be forgotten. But if we do it right and we always make that our goal, we will capture history and memories that people will go back to and enjoy literally forever.

4. You see talents unlocked in your students.

Every year it happens and it always amazes me. When the year begins, no one, including me, is ever 100% sure we will make another great yearbook. But we always do. Why? It’s not because of me. It’s because the yearbook process forces students to dig deep and find talents they never knew they had. How many times have I thought this is the year we won’t have any amazing designs in the book, only to find another great designer? How many times have I seen students who have never been leaders before come out of their shells, rise to the challenge and take charge of encouraging and being an example to 30 of their peers?

5. You can travel.

My students and I have seen Oprah, Chelsea Clinton and Lisa Ling. We have experienced “Wicked,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Spiderman.” We have climbed to the top of the Space Needle, Coit Tower and 30 Rockefeller Plaza. We have eaten at a Hard Rock Café in more than 10 cities, Carmines in New York City and Ed Debevic’s in Chicago. We have traveled to more than 40 conventions together in my 30 years of advising and my yearbookers are always amazed to be in the company of other great students who love journalism as much as they do.

6. You get free food.

I am sure I would currently be 25 pounds lighter and my body would be in perfect shape if I was not the yearbook adviser. But who can pass up free food? Would you be able to say no to that last piece of Little Caesar’s? Could you pass up that last snickerdoodle that Lauren just made in Foods class? I know I never seem to be able to.

7. You develop relationships that last a lifetime.

When I reflect on my 30-year advising career, I look back most fondly on all the relationships I have created with my yearbook editors over the years. Thanks to Facebook, I still hear from many of them regularly.

I am still in touch with my first editor, Tami, who now is the Student Government adviser at a school less than 10 miles away and is influencing many lives herself.

Last year I got back in touch with Joe, who was a design editor back in 1988. He won the MacArthur Prize for his work on viruses and is trying to find a cure for malaria.

Just last week I reconnected with Erin, who was an editor-in-chief in 1987. She told me how being on yearbook had helped her overcome her shyness and showed her how she could be a leader, and that the experience set the tone for the rest of her life.

And I could tell you the stories of 20 others.

Advising yearbook is certainly not for the faint of heart, and neither is creating the book, as I tell my students, but the benefits make it worth it.

Jim Jordan

Jim Jordan is a Special Consultant for Walsworth Yearbooks and the former yearbook adviser at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, California. Jim was the 1996 JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year, and shares his expertise with students and advisers at workshops and conventions across the country. Jim is the lead mentor for Walsworth's Adviser Mentor Program.