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September 2, 2020 / Coverage / Systems of Success

Systems of Success: Back-to-School 2020 Corona Edition (part 1)

Written by Jim Jordan

What a crazy year it’s been, and the crazy isn’t slowing down. My love and support go out to you. You are all truly my heroes.

Regardless of how and when you are starting school, here are some helpful systems you should consider getting in place as your year gets underway.

1. Develop Your Team Building System

Especially if you are starting the year online, begin building your team on whatever online platform your school is using. There are many online resources available, so find the ones that best fit you and your staff. Even if they aren’t perfect or you eventually choose a different platform, they still can be a lot of fun and help your staff grow closer.

The staff needs to get to know one another and understand who will be leading them, who they can go to for help and who they can communicate most easily and effectively with.

2. Develop Your Communication System

In my 39 years of advising and working with advisers, the way you communicate as an editorial team and as a staff will play the most important role in making your year smooth, fun and rewarding. Because many staffs will start the year remotely, effective communication is even more crucial. Set up times to meet regularly online with your leadership team before school starts and throughout the year.

  • Before school begins, have online meetings with your leadership team. Before school starts, set up a time to meet with your editorial leadership team to plan for the start of school. You will need to plan how you are going to have your staff ready to start covering the year before it starts. If most of your staff remains untrained too long, you may miss many of the crucial events that happen as the summer ends and the school begins.
  • Review what you learned during summer online training. Gather your camp team to review what you learned and discuss the progress you made on theme and design elements. Discuss ways you can bring what you learned to the staff who did not attend. Most of the summer workshop videos are available for 90 days after the sessions, so take advantage of them.
  • Set up your online communication system. From the very beginning of the year, set up how you plan to keep everyone in the loop about what is going on, monitor progress on pages, debrief after completed deadlines and report and resolve conflict. If you want to use an online organization and communication tool, decide what project management system software is best for you. Several years ago, a number of publications staffs began using Trello as a means to communicate and manage the production of the book. More recently, staffs have been migrating to Slack as their management and communication software. However, because the free version of Slack has certain limitations, some are moving toward a program called Basecamp. Take a look at the options and determine what features work best for you. Just be sure these tools will save time and improve communication, not just create another level of work.

Check out this article from Courtney Hanks from University High School in Orange City, Florida, about how she and her staff have used Basecamp to manage their production. Here is another resource from Michael Simons and how he and his staff use Slack to organize their production.

3. Develop Your Beginning-of-the-Year Training System

  • Begin training your staff as soon as is possible – Starting remotely, this will be different than usual and may take longer, so get started as soon as you can. Job one at the beginning of the year is to get the staff trained as best as you can in the time available before production gets into full swing. We would spend a major part of our class time in training during the first four to six weeks.
  • Hold your own staff boot camp or watch session from Walsworth’s Boot Camp. Consider holding a staff boot camp the week before school starts. Start the training process as early as possible so the staff can start shooting photos, interviewing and covering events well right from the start. In one day at boot camp, you can cover material and train your staff in what would take a week or two of class periods before after the year starts. I have also read about several staffs who hold their boot camp on a weekend AFTER school starts.
  • Photo training is the most essential – even if it is using your cell phone. If you are on campus in any form, be sure your photo staff is ready to be taking photos immediately. Have your experienced staff train your rookie photographers and get them out practicing their craft at end-of-summer practices and events.

Begin connecting with your community so they can send you photos of activities that are happening outside of school or in the home through the Yearbook Snap app. You may even consider providing information on how to take and compose better photos using their phones. A few small tips on composition and lighting can make a huge difference in making a photo yearbook-quality.

  • Develop your full staff training sequence. If you can’t hold any summer trainings, thoughtfully set up a timeline for how you will train your staff to do what is required of them. Start with interviewing and caption writing. Most issues with the staff arise when you have not trained your staff well and you expect them to do things they are not prepared to do at the level they will be required to.
  • Empower your editors to lead. Your staff and the process of creating the book should be led by your editors. With guidance from you as the adviser, each day, the editors should oversee running the class and being sure all necessary work is accomplished. Help the editorial staff plan what needs to be accomplished every day in class. In my 35 years of advising one, of our weaknesses was not using every minute of class time as wisely as we could have or should have. When you waste class time, even if it isn’t in person, it only means there will be more work to be accomplished at another time.

I’ll continue this Systems of Success with a part 2, so go get started and I’ll have more for you soon!


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Jim Jordan

Jim Jordan is a Special Consultant for Walsworth Yearbooks and the host of the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast. He is 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.