Making it a family thing

Editor in chief Kayla adds her signature to the adoption certificate, bringing the 2014 edition of the yearbook into the family.

Editor in chief Kayla adds her signature to the adoption certificate, bringing the 2014 edition of the yearbook into the family.

My yearbook editor and I have such high hopes for the year – the whole editorial staff, really, though it is small yet. With only four returners, we have decided to promote section editors based on performance. This Editor in Chief is in her fourth year on staff, so she has been a part of three staffs before this year. She has seen the good, the bad and the ugly, and she knows what she wants this year. Top on her list is meeting that early June deadline and not spending her summer in the yearbook room. She knows that in order to meet that goal, we all have to work together, to feel included, feel like a team.

I know that this inclusion, this bonding, has to happen early, because too often, division happens early. So I’ve been plotting, and I came up with a pretty good idea. With a nod of credit to @SarahJNichols who has been having her yearbook staff marry their books for 15 years, I set about to create a similar commitment ceremony.

At the end of a lesson for the newbies on theme, in which I showed various books and how they incorporated theirs and then had pairs come up with themes based on objects in a box (ball of string, remote control, bandana, highlighters, etc.), I showed a clip from “Cinderella.” Remember the fairies? Each of the fairies bestowed a ‘gift’ on the baby Aurora. The first was the gift of beauty; the second was the gift of ‘song.’ But as the third fairy began to give her gift, the evil Maleficent appears to curse Aurora.

I explained to the staff that they each have a gift to bring to the book, and that they’ll have to protect the book from the evils of missed opportunities, procrastination and settling for what will work instead of what is the best. For the next class they were each to consider what gift they will bring to the book (a good lesson on abstract nouns).  Also, the editors, who met in the summer for a retreat, would reveal the theme they had developed, including the proposed cover, graphic elements and theme pages. Of course, they left it open for more interpretation and development by the rest of the staff.

At the beginning of class the next day, as EIC was setting up the laptop/projector, I gave them half sheets of colored paper and had them write: To the book, I give the gift of ________________________. And they signed their names. They had time to think about it as EIC projected the cover and pages and explained how the theme came about, how they planned to carry it throughout the book and took questions and suggestions from the staff. While this was going on, I set up a table with cups, plates, napkins, flatware and their attention was slowly stolen from theme to food. I placed a decorative basket and confirmed that, yes, there might be food.

I sent two staffers to the teachers’ lounge to fetch the baby shower cake on which I’d had the bakery scrawl the theme (she was puzzled) and the punch. Then I instructed them to come to the table one at a time, tell us the gift they were bestowing, roll their gift up scroll-style, place it in the basket and sign the Certificate of Adoption.

Yes. The Certificate of Adoption. I had utilized my design skills to create a certificate that officially named the book (the theme for the year), and held a promise that the staff would work as a family to protect the book, honor the book, sacrifice for the book and give their best to help the book become all that it could be. I made it over-the-top formal with 16 lines for signatures. This will be framed and sit beside the basket as a reminder of the commitment we have all made to work as a family TOGETHER to bring that book from infancy to complete.

After we all signed, we had cake and punch – baby shower style. And would you believe not a single ‘gift’ was duplicated? Our book has received such gifts as humor, perseverance, attention to detail, organization and many more. I was so proud of the things they came up with.

The bonding ritual was cemented with a little cake frosting smeared on a face. Yes, there is photographic evidence, and, yes, it might just end up on the yearbook spread.


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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