Striking that Balance

One of my brighter ideas this year was scheduled workdays – Saturdays that yearbook staffers come in from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, about one per deadline, to try and get a ton of work finished without having to rush off to the next class. The other obvious advantage is that most everyone else is here too, so if a staffer is having trouble with transitions in a story, or writing captions on a page or finding more class dance photos, having the others here provides extra help. I figure if the newspaper staff has “late nights,” then yearbook should have “work Saturdays.”

Works pretty well, except that it’s difficult to make Saturday mandatory, when families have other ideas about how weekends should be spent. I try to stress to those who cannot be here on a workday, though, that the time needs to be made up, especially if they are behind on anything. Face it – this is yearbook – everyone is behind on something.

We had limited success with yesterday’s workday. Got our first page submission in – 27 pages, which should have been 37, and should have been a month ago. We are fall delivery, so I’m not in the same panic some of my peers would be in under these circumstances. And we’re in better shape than last year, but that was such a mess that it’s not much of a standard to measure against.

As I think on where we are now and how at this point in the year things really begin to move at a higher rate of speed, I begin to get that uneasy feeling. My three editors know it well too. The only three returners, besides a photographer who isn’t with us this block because of scheduling issues, remember what it was like to worry over staffers not doing their jobs second semester last year, and they remember working through summer with last year’s editor to complete unfinished work.

This is where it gets sticky for them as leaders and for me as adviser. I really need to have an uncomfortable staff meeting Monday. I need to hold those who are behind accountable and make them come in during Encore until their work is caught up. But a couple of issues complicate things. Some of the work that is behind is the fault of staffers who left us at the semester. Who do I hold accountable for those spreads? And here’s the clincher for me – if I get too cranky NO ONE WILL WANT TO BE ON YEARBOOK STAFF.  It’s so hard to strike that balance. Yearbook is supposed to be fun, but it’s hard work. When the kids get behind, because they have some fun in class or because it’s uncomfortable to talk to people they don’t know, or someone else was supposed to get the pictures, write the story, talk to someone, I have to hold them accountable, and it ceases to be fun. Then they just have to go talk to a counselor and get their schedule changed. Or they simply don’t come back next year and yearbook gets a reputation for being hard and run by a demanding crankster.

The best I can do, for the book, for me, and ultimately for them, is to calmly hold them accountable. We’ll have that meeting. I’ll show them where we stand and tell them what I expect:

“We got 75 percent of our deadline met one month late. That’s not acceptable. We have new deadlines in addition to completing old deadlines. That requires extra time.  When you signed on, I told you this was hard, but fun. You signed a contract, an agreement to finish on time. Things get much busier from this point on. While you are working on these late assignments, you will also be covering the current assignments, keeping them from getting behind. Once we have finished these delayed assignments and met our next deadline, we will celebrate.”

It’s all about striking a balance.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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