June 17, 2009 / Staff Management

Small rewards pay off big

Written by Lisa Morris

They say that good work is its own reward, and when a yearbook staff begins pulling the first yearbooks from the box, you know this is true. However, by the time they begin unpacking books, they have been waiting for their reward for nearly a year. Because yearbook is such a long-term project, a series of small rewards along the way can keep a staff on track and motivated.

Sometimes a sticker and a few minutes of laughter can do the trick; on deadline nights, a large pizza has been know to heal body and spirit; and, other times, a staff just needs a day away from all the stresses of yearbook. There are many ways to motivate students, and the following list, made up of ideas from advisers, students and workshop instructors, is only a starting point.

Race to Success
Have students decorate paper racecars and design a track around the room. Laminate the cars and use tacking putty to attach them to the track. You can chart any type of progress on this track – ad sales, yearbook sales, deadlines met, pages completed, etc.

Toss and Talk
Spend 15 minutes patting each other on the back occasionally. Toss a koosh ball to someone in the room and say something nice about that person. That person tosses the ball to someone else in the room and says something nice. Repeat until everyone has been covered. This can also be a “getting acquainted” session. One student asks a question and tosses the ball to someone in the room. That person then answers and forms another question, tossing the ball to someone else, and so on.

Secret Pals
Use them for special occasions, or use them all year long, for every deadline. Students reward each other with positive notes, gifts, etc.

Stress Relief
Stock up on stress relievers – tension balls, koosh balls, bubble soap and wands, a couple stuffed animals, magic wands, a Crazy 8 ball, and other toys to break the tension.

Mailbox Mania
In publication classes, students need to check their mailboxes frequently to keep track of photo assignments, revisions, memos and so forth. Monthly treats stashed in mailboxes keep the students coming back for more.

Picture Wall
Reserve a space, preferably near the computers, for students to hang some of their own photos. When deadlines are looming, it is nice to focus for a few seconds on photos of friends, family and pets. Silly staff photos should also be a part of the collection, reminding students of good times.

Awards
Give awards for each deadline – best copy, headline, caption, photo, most valuable, most improved, best story, best photos, etc. Make sure everyone is a winner sometimes. Also, help students enter their work in state and national contests, and, when they win awards, be sure to publicize their success.

Sending Success
Send out one or two post cards a week congratulating yearbook staff members for accomplishments, praising them for doing extra work or helping others, or just thanking them for their positive attitudes.

Celebrate
Celebrate holidays, birthdays and “just because” days; also recognize other activities that students participate in by posting clippings about the students.

Advertise
Congratulate staff members by placing an ad in the local newspaper.

Good Work!
Come up with 100 ways to say, “Good job!” You could give the students the first 50 and have them brainstorm (and use) the rest. Use these frequently in class.

Banquet
Hold an awards banquet at the end of the year, praising student work, giving awards, and maybe presenting scholarships.

Ceremony
Hold a formal Quill and Scroll induction in the fall, and make sure Quill and Scroll graduates wear honor cords at graduation.

Field Trips
Go to state and national conventions and workshops. Visit your yearbook company. Tour the journalism department of an area college or a professional printing company. On a smaller scale, just get together at least once a semester for dinner at an area restaurant.

Job Shadowing
Have students job shadow at area businesses like the local newspaper, graphic design firm, advertising agency, or professional photographer. Students see that the skills they are learning can be applied in “the real world,” and often come back with great new ideas.

Workshop
Have the students organize their own junior high journalism workshop, where they teach a variety of sessions and plan activities for their junior high counterparts.

The list could go on, but the key is finding and tailoring motivation techniques to work for your staff. Be sure to allow editors and staff members to be a part of the process, as well, perhaps even giving each editor or team of students one month to serve as the staff’s cheerleader/recreation director. The completed yearbook will always be the best reward, but a series of little rewards along the way can do wonders, boosting both productivity and spirits.

Lisa Morris

Lisa Morris is the yearbook adviser at Connersville High School in Connersville, Ind. She was named a JEA Special Recognition Adviser in 2003. Morris has advised yearbooks at several schools in Indiana, guiding some of the staffs to national honors such as a 2007 Pacemaker Finalist at Carmel High School.