Tips to help tackle tedious tasks

Written by Jan Hensel

It usually does not take long for people in stressful jobs, such as parents, to start analyzing repetitive or tedious tasks to try to figure out a better way to do things. For example, I know a mother of three little girls who admitted to putting her kids to bed on Saturday night with their patent-leather Mary Jane’s already on.

Yearbook advisers, likewise, must be inventive. The following six tips might help you be more organized, save some time and even help handle a few of life’s little inconveniences.

Tip 1
Post deadlines in several conspicuous places around the publications room. Give a list of deadlines to each student as early in the year as possible. Hand out deadline dates during “Back to School” events. Mail them home to parents. You can never be too rich or too thin or harp on deadlines too much.

Tip 2
Tape a list of the student body and a list of all faculty on the wall. Develop a system for marking off names as they are used in the yearbook. We mark every mug shot with a yellow highlighter. Anyone not highlighted is worked into the book in a story as soon as possible. We add check marks after each name for every time the person is quoted or pictured. After three check marks, the person goes on our “No-No” list, which means they cannot be used unless in a team or club photo or for another compelling reason approved by the editor and adviser.

NOTE: Do remember that students come and go all year. It is a good idea to check with the office every month to add names of new students to your list.

Tip 3
Keep reference books handy in the classroom. If you want your students to use the dictionary, for heaven’s sake have a good one around – preferably with a copyright from this decade! In addition to several new dictionaries, we have copies of the AP Stylebook, Roget’s Thesaurus in dictionary form, a grammar and usage manual, previous yearbooks, the student handbook, yearbook company manuals, computer manuals, etc.

Tip 4
Cut carbon paper to the size of the photo assignment pads from your yearbook kit. Teach students to make two copies of each photo assignment: one for the photographer and one for the photo editor or you. This makes it much easier to keep track of what subjects have been assigned and whose responsibility it is to take photos for a spread.

Tip 5
Have every staff member fill out an information card to keep in a file box on your desk. On one side get personal information: parents names, work phone numbers, home numbers including the student’s private line, home address, and birthday. In the top right hand corner have them write down the hour they have study hall. This can be very handy if you need a reporter or photographer pronto! On the back, each student writes out his full class schedule with room numbers for both semesters. (Expect them to correct the schedule if their classes change.) If you’ve taught yearbook class for more than a week, you probably recognize how useful this card box is. The cards are also good for recording interactions with students, like “Dec. 1, promised not to shoot editor with rubber bands ever again.” Seriously, I record on the card tardies and other misdemeanors I might want to remember to substantiate grade or behavior problems, and I jot down a note any time I call home, too. My card box has served me well in finding students during the school day very quickly as well as in substantiating behavior of difficult students to parents, counselors or the principal.

Tip 6
Keep an “Emergency Kit” in your classroom. Whether you decide to share some items with staffers or not is up to you, though it is never, never, never a good idea to dispense any medications to students. My kit has a flashlight, batteries, clear nail polish, band-aids, lip balm, hand lotion, quarters for the pop machine, feminine items, safety pins, a toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste, a small mirror, contact lens case and solution, Ibuprophen, antacids, anti-diarrhea medicine, cough drops and more. I also try to keep granola bars or other fairly non-perishable snacks around for those times when I miss lunch. Mostly I keep these items for myself, but I do get a sadistic thrill out of squelching a staffer’s request to go to the nurse for a band-aid or safety pin. The look in Shifty Suzie’s eyes when she realizes she will not get to escape for 20 minutes is almost as good as getting a full five hours of sleep.

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Jan Hensel

Jan Hensel is the former adviser at Liberty High School in Liberty, Mo., where she taught yearbook, newspaper and photography.