Last week we had the opportunity to chat with Sheila Hanrahan about the changes to the yearbook process this year.
What’s different this year about yearbook? Well, the yearbook’s had a long history here. It’s been offered as a class until about two years ago. At that point in time, we decided that we would offer it as an independent study instead of an actual class. If kids wanted to work on it, they could, but nobody took us up on the offer. It fell down to Erin Aitchison, to produce the book. The last 2 years Erin and I have made the book. This year, a group of 10th grade students wanted to have student input on the yearbook, so they came to me and I suggested that they form a club or a committee that meets once a week. So far they’ve helped decide the theme, come up with the cover art, come up with some inside art, and created a whole different way of organizing it, which hopefully will be interesting. But, it is a little more challenging for the layout, because traditionally we would do arts, athletics, senior pages, and student life, but this year we’re doing it by trimesters; fall, winter spring.
What sort of processes are you working with? We started using TreeRing last year. TreeRing is a company where you can do the editing and layout online. It’s really cool in a lot of ways, very easy to use, and you don’t need to learn Photoshop or InDesign. For several years we had used big yearbook companies. They have these very artificial deadlines. Essentially your book has to be done in December, because then they go through a process of editing, and preparing things for printing. This was because their print cycle was so long, but obviously there’s still a lot of school year left after December. Then for several years we used a local printer. However, the problem with using a local printer is that you have to have everything absolutely camera ready for them. They’ll work with your deadlines, but [we had] to put a lot more work on it on our end than we were used to doing. We were used to the big yearbook publishing companies that have canned programs and you just feed everything into it and it lays out headshots and other things. Here we had to do all of that ourselves, which was great. Kids learned a lot about InDesign and Photoshop. The problem is it’s very labor-intensive and something that kids didn’t really have the time and energy to do. Yearbook as an elective is great idea. Yearbook as a class is kind of this shoved into this artificial time period where you can’t really work very efficiently. For a number of reasons, we went away from using a publisher, but when we found TreeRing it solved a lot of problems that kids don’t have to [solve].
What are the greatest rewards and challenges about working on the yearbook? The greatest rewards are when the kids are actually putting the yearbook together, and it’s their theme, and they have some cool ideas, and they get really creative. Because it’s easy enough for Erin and I to sit down and create a book and make it represent the year, sort of, but it’s still not what the kids had any input or say into. So it’s just a book that kind of has some pictures into it, but it’s not. You know from experience that one person can have a great idea but when you’re in a room and you’re talking about it and you add things on and layer it, it becomes this fantastic idea and then you have multiple hands working on it. It’s kind of a collaboration, and when it comes together, it’s a great thing to see. The flipside of that is no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you work, there are always going to be people who don’t like it, whether they don’t like the theme or you got the wrong roster for a team and you forgot somebody. So you have to be conscious [that] kids who are taking it home can be very sensitive to those kinds of things.
Is there anything that you would want to add? It’s interesting having this committee do it this year. It’s purely student-driven and it’s on their time schedule. Plus, since it’s on TreeRing students can work anywhere, anytime. They can put in the amount of commitment they want, so it doesn’t seem like you’re forcing someone to go to class every day and make them do something that they might not be ready to do that day. It’s great that it’s voluntary and the commitment is whatever you want to give. I think it’s just easier that way for the kids. They’re not being graded, and they don’t have to read the comments at the end of the term. It’s just whatever they want to do, they can do, so it’s fun.