Adopting good ideas

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and it’s not that I have nothing to post about – it’s that there has been so much, so fast this year, that it’s been tough to focus on one idea and develop it into something worth reading. It’s been overwhelming. I think that’s the way many students have been feeling, especially the new members of our student news staff. I did something this week that, I hope, makes a difference.

Earlier in the semester, my news magazine editor (both online news and news magazine are produced by one staff, but separate editors) suggested that some of our returning members mentor, or “buddy”, our four new members. Two of these four had intro to journalism last year, but the other two had only good qualifications and impressive drive. The “buddy system” was working somewhat. The editor, herself, took her buddy with her to interview the principal. They both got interviews for two different stories. However, I still saw the newbs (term of endearment) working but still seeming like they weren’t quite sure how to approach a task or maybe even what to ask or whom to ask it of. In short, I didn’t see enough connection between all the staff members.

In a brief staff meeting on Monday, I went down a list of stuff they needed to know for the week and included specific “Jane will adopt Jill as a buddy”, pairing up all the new members with established staffers. THEN, I jokingly said I’d even considered designing adoption certificates and bringing cake, but I’d run out of time. At the mention of food, they all got excited. We decided to make Friday our adoption celebration.

So there I sat, at my dining room table Friday morning, just out of the shower with my cup of coffee, realizing, “Oh, dear Lord. I didn’t make the certificates.” This was largely brought on by the GroupMe texts I noticed from the night before as the kids checked in with each other about what they were bringing. So I pulled InDesign up on my laptop screen and quickly designed adoption certificates. At the last minute, I scootched everything up a tad and added nine signature lines at the bottom. I made a certificate for the adopter and one for the adoptee. I got them printed off as they were coming into class.

Someone made the suggestion that I use the large, wooden T-square left behind by last year’s editor. I think they wanted me to knight them (as he did when he promoted them to editors), but I chose to use it as a gavel. I’m telling you, this was all quite impromptu. I have no guide but my hyperactive mind and a certain flexibility that allows me to leave the script.

I called them to order by rapping the T-square on a desk. With my certificates stacked in front of me on a group of desk tables that also held sugar cookies, home-baked chocolate chip cookies, some pumpkin sandwich cookies, a pumpkin-cream cheese roll and two bags of potato chips, I asked the adopters to stand. All on my left, they did so. I asked my adoptees to stand and as they did, I noted that they were all on my right. (I’m hoping the mingling will begin soon.)

In wedding vow fashion and off the top of my head, I asked the adopters if they promised to guide and direct and check regularly on their adopted members. They agreed. I asked the adoptees if they promised to ask questions, look to their adopters for guidance and help when they needed it. They agreed.

Then a teacher walked in to give me some softball information I’d asked for an hour earlier. I told her we were in the middle of an adoption ceremony, I’d be right with her. She laughed a little.

Then I told them I was also borrowing from my Methodist background and the baptism ritual – assured them no water was involved – and asked the entire staff to accept these new members into the family and promise to also help guide and direct and be good friends. They agreed. I may have rapped my gavel again.

I ran around giving each person their certificates and directed their attention to the signature lines on which the rest of the staff should sign. They began signing all the lines on all the certificates and eating stuff and going off to interview people and writing their stories, and I hope it makes a difference.

That’s really all there was to it.

I’ve been known to do similar goofy things, some with planning and forethought, like the adoption ceremony for the yearbook in 2013, from which I took most of what we did this week. I went much more in depth for it, though, so check it out if you want more.

Then sometimes, like this week, it’s pretty much on a whim, like the time we had a funeral for a corrupted memory card. His name was Peter.

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This was way back in 2009 or 2010, but as I recall, they couldn’t get the pics from the card and we determined it was corrupted. They asked me, “so we just throw it away?” I probably responded with something snarky, like, “unless you want to have a funeral or something.” And the fun began.

Someone pulled a Little Jug juice container from the trash can and proceeded to cut it length-wise on all but one long side, creating a casket for Peter (we name all our equipment and cards for checkout purposes). She filled the casket with tissue, lacking satin. Someone googled images of candles and flowers for us to print and hold at the service. Peter’s casket was placed on some stacked books with another tissue creating a sort of carpet beneath.

Someone mentioned Peter’s wife, and before I knew it, a smaller SD card (we’d just gotten our first camera that used SD instead of CF cards) was propped below the steps, holding her own tissue. We gathered round, someone said a few words, while someone else was smart enough to capture the moment. That was the dominant photo on the yearbook spread that year.

Ya gotta have a little fun or the work becomes drudgery. Amiright?

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.