For a lot of yearbook advisers, the question of which students end up on their yearbook staff is outside their control—even if they don’t want it to be.
And while you can do a lot to influence that question, it’s still the teacher’s equivalent to rolling of the dice. Which means you could spend a lot of time focused on building your dream yearbook staff, only to find out it can’t happen for a number of reasons outside your control.
When it comes to your yearbook program, then, don’t just ask, Who are the right students for my yearbook staff? Make sure you ask, What’s the best way to structure my yearbook staff for my students and my goals?, as well. Because that second question might set you and your yearbook staff for success in more ways than the first question ever could.
Focusing on the right structure for your yearbook staff will provide these advantages:
- Ensure the work your students do is aligned with your goals for the book, giving you a better chance of meeting your goals for the book.
- Ensure your students work in roles suitable to their experience and interests, giving them an opportunity to experience success early and learn a specific set of skills that interests them.
Inside this post, we’ll explore how to organize your yearbook staff for these advantages, plus the basic positions you’ll need to fill for a successful year. Read on.
Making Your Yearbook Staff Structure Fit Your Needs
When organizing your yearbook staff, you have two choices for structure: organize your staff by responsibilities, or organize your staff by sections of the book.
Understanding the advantages (and disadvantages) of both types of yearbook staff structures will make picking the right one for your team easier. That being the case, let’s break them down.
Organizing by responsibility.
A more traditional structure for large yearbook staffs, this approach mimics the type of organizational hierarchy that students will find out in the real world. It provides each member of a staff the opportunity to work on a core responsibility, giving them better experience in a select area.
If you have a large returning group of students, this can be an easy organizational structure to implement. You’ll know your students’ strengths and interests, and you’ll be able to match them to roles that will be the best fit for them.
The advantage here is clear: Your students will become rockstars in their given roles. As the year progresses, so, too, will your students skills. The layouts and designs will get better, the photos will get better, the writing will get better. Hard to turn down, right?
There are, though, a couple drawbacks to organizing your staff in this fashion. For one, you need a decent sized yearbook staff—and that’s something not every yearbook adviser has. If you don’t have a class smaller than 12 students or so, you’ll likely be asking students to focus on multiple responsibilities.
For another, your job as a classroom manager will get a little hectic. Each responsibility on a yearbook staff—layout and design, copy, photography—could be taught as year-long, stand-alone courses. And if you’re students are diving deep on a specific responsibility, they’re likely to want the knowledge and challenges that come along with that deep dive. Figuring out how to teach three different subjects to three different sets of students for the entire year, then, can be challenging.
Organizing by sections of the book.
When you’re running a lean and mean yearbook staff, everyone needs to get their hands dirty on everything. And that’s exactly what this organizational structure allows.
For small yearbook staffs and for staffs where you know little about your students’ strengths and interests, giving everyone the chance to design, write and photograph allows for more exploration, skill development, and overall interest in the book.
Organizing your yearbook staff by sections of the book will give everyone a specific task, keep them focused, and help ensure each section (if not the whole book) has a cohesive feel. Pretty much everyone we’ve ever talked yearbooks with would agree it’s nice when that happens.
The biggest downside to this organizational structure is actually it’s strength: Students will get experience with lots of different responsibilities, but not a lot of experience with a single responsibility. That’s a problem, if one of your goals as a yearbook adviser is to help students develop a specific skill.
For student-run yearbook staffs, either of these organizational structures will help you set up your yearbook staff for success.
Basic Positions For Any Student-Run Yearbook Staff
Just like there’s no single, perfect organizational structure for your yearbook staff, there’s no single, perfect set of roles. There are, though, a few roles that are good starting points for shaping your staff.
Here’s a breakdown of yearbook staff positions to consider:
Because of the huge list of responsibilities that come with the title, nearly all editors-in-chief are returning students. Experience alone isn’t enough.
They’ll need all the tools: dedication, talent, leadership. Your editor-in-chief will be part of a small team that shapes the theme and coverage of the yearbook, and will help train new students, provide you with feedback on how the yearbook program is being run, and be part of the team that signs off on the book before it goes to print.
How you decide to structure your yearbook staff will impact how you define your editor roles. If you choose to organize your staff by responsibility, you’ll want an editor for each core area of the book: layout and design, writing, and photography. If you choose to organize your staff by sections of the book, you’ll want an editor for each section of the book.
Regardless, your editors will be lead-by-example types who are also comfortable providing guidance to staffers and younger students. They’ll serve as coaches, and make sure students stay on theme and within the style guide constraints you and the editor-in-chief put in place. They’ll keep their pages moving or make sure their responsibilities aren’t blocking pages from being finished on time. And they’ll copy edit and proof pages before submitting to you and the editor-in-chief for final sign off before submission.
With few exceptions, the majority of your students will be staffers.
Their primary responsibilities should include choosing the right layout for the write spread, taking photos, covering events, and writing headlines, captions and stories. Because many of your staffers will be new to yearbook, your editors will need to help guide with them. They’ll work together on developing story ideas, learning to tell stories through photos, and fitting layout schemes and page designs to content.
There’s plenty of work to go around when it comes to yearbook (as you know); so, making sure you have a sizable staff is worthwhile—even if that means your editorial staff is a bit smaller.
Spending more time on structuring your yearbook staff to best fit your students and your goals will do more than help you create a better book; it’ll help you deliver a more rewarding experience for the students in your program.