September 28, 2011 / Fall 2011 / Staff Management

Think Big about your yearbook

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Big ideas come to those who take the time to think. Explore what Thinking Big really means for your yearbook, and examine the examples located throughout the magazine.

Thinking big about your yearbook means not conforming or settling for what you have already accomplished.

Two advisers from two different parts of the country made that exact statement when asked about the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the phrase, “Think Big about yearbook.”

“I am starting my sixth year as adviser. Each staff has set the goal of improving on the previous yearbook. This can only happen when the students think originally and don’t conform to what they did in the past,” Carlos Briano, adviser at El Dorado High School in El Paso, Texas, said.

“Taking them to outstanding summer workshops is so important to achieve this. When my students hear outstanding advisers talking about the boring and cliché, my students shy away from those things. I remind them that El Dorado Aztecs can be unique, creative, swagger-filled students. Prove it,” Briano said, referring to his 2010 yearbook’s theme, “Swagger.”

“I honestly believe some students are naturally better at seeing things in original ways – just like some students are better at singing or running,” Greg Dalrymple, adviser at Trenton High School in Trenton, Mo., said. “I also believe that we can learn to be more original.”

Dalrymple said that as a teacher, the process is just as important as the product.

“First, we just have to slow down; too often we miss the journey because we are too focused on the final destination. Next, we have to widen our circle of contact; of course nothing is ever different if you don’t do something different or meet someone different.

“Right now there is someone in your school that has an amazing story to tell – find them, talk to them and tell their story. Finally, we have to find our voice, our school’s voice and each story’s voice,” Dalrymple said.

In some schools, yearbook is an elective dumping ground for the school counselor. In other schools, it is a privilege to be awarded a staff position. Once the staff is formed, the adviser must figure out how to get their staff to be both creative and productive.

“I believe yearbook is a wonderful haven for the creative type, by nature. It is then up to the adviser to allow the creative student to thrive while keeping him on schedule with deadlines. That is the key,” Briano said.

“I think it is a combination of things. The adviser has a role in creating an environment in which new and different ideas are acceptable and, more importantly, expected,” Dalrymple said.

“However, I am not sure that having students think up new things is as difficult as having students who can follow through with a new idea. So often the students will have a great idea early on in the process but as the year goes on the idea losses steam and the “Big Idea” slides into the rut of the ordinary or familiar,” Dalrymple said.

“So what make the really good students different are motivation, communication and organization. They have to want to be something more. They have to have a clear picture of what they want and they must be able to communicate that idea. They must have a plan.  As advisers, we can help build skills that will allow our students to do these things,” Dalrymple said.

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.