“Think about that pretty girl!”

Picture day.

If you’re a yearbook adviser, you just got a flash of my whole day. But there are a few details that make every picture day, er, um, unique – memorable. The same was true today.

Ever done picture day during construction on your campus?

There, you just got a few more pictures in your head, didn’t you?

Let’s call it an adventure that started as I raced to get to school by 6:30 a.m. because I remembered as I was going to sleep last night (isn’t it weird how you suddenly remember EVERYTHING you weren’t supposed to forget as you’re drifting off and can do nothing about it?), that I hadn’t turned in the “Facility Request” form. Therefore no one would know to meet my photographer, Joe, to let him in the auditorium at 6:30 a.m. so he could set up and be ready to make people smile whether he or they felt like it or not. I got there just after he had the band director let him in. He reminded me that the band director at every school is always there early.

On my first trip to the office to use the P.A. system, I learned two things: it was cold (I hadn’t brought a jacket) and though the water line break from the day before had been repaired, water had been restored to all buildings except the auditorium. Restrooms out of order. That would add interest to the day.

I enjoy listening to the photographers interact with their subjects. “You have brothers or sisters?” prompts certain facial expressions. If it’s not the right expression, a simple “Who wins the arguments?” might generate a better one. “Say cheese” is no longer the standard. When I hear “think about that pretty girl,” I never know what kind of expression it will generate either. But Joe has a string of ’em.

This was a retake day, so while I didn’t necessarily expect it to be incredibly busy, I was still disappointed at the low turn-out. It seems about three quarters of the student body do what they need to do to get their pics made, some more enthusiastically than others, but that last 25 percent just don’t want to play. What made me sadder, and even a little frustrated, is that a significant portion of no-shows were faculty. While we have a faculty of around 80, there will only be about 50 or so on the yearbook pages, and some big name players who got caught up in other responsibilities on both the original picture day and this retake day, were not photographed. Now the yearbook staff has to decided how to handle the missing people on the portrait pages.

I know everyone feels differently about getting their picture made on picture day. Some like to do it, some hate it. But I wish everyone would realize that the picture isn’t just about the person in the picture. Having that photographic account of these people at this school on this day is documentation that at some point most of us want to look back on. We want to be able to look back and recall the art teacher that made us feel special, the math teacher that could never explain things the way we could get it or the coach who made us learn to stick with something no matter how tough it was. To decide to withhold that opportunity from others because you don’t want your photo made or because you don’t want to take the time to get it done is a little bit selfish.

It’s also valid to note that the yearbook staff is responsible for putting that piece of history together, and they are cheated from a better product by those who would withhold that photographic part of history.

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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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