The Sum of Three Days

Sorry for the long delay between posts.  Here’s a summary:

Friday was mid-quarter.  Yikes!  Where did the time go?  Usually mid-quarter finds me frantically updating grades online and feeling guilty when I receive the friendly reminder from my principal that this task is an expectation for the job.  This year I felt (surprisingly) guilt-free.  I’m going to credit all the hours I spent organizing the room back in August for this one.  My new grading system is efficient.  Students turn work in to their class tray.  I clear the tray at the end of the day. and move it to the grading file on my desk.  Once it’s graded it is stored in the “to be returned” hanging file holder.  I’ve also been using the participation logs to indicate when a student turns in a digital assignment (dropbox, email, shared folder, etc).  These practices have made me much more aware of students with missing grades which is a huge relief at mid-quarter.

I had a closing shift at my other job on Friday, so my total hours for the log were just the regular school day, 8.5.

Sunday I spent 1.5 hours prepping lessons for the upcoming week.

Monday evening marked the first meeting with my retreat team for the senior class retreat in January.  Several teachers meet with the two student teams for four months leading up to the actual retreats.  In total we will meet for Formation Meetings six times, have one workday and one run-through of the retreat.  It is a huge commitment from the students and for me as one of the adult leaders.  I love these meetings, but they are exhausting.  School day, an extra hour prepping and grading, and the meeting meant an 11 hour day for me on Monday.

Tuesday was my crazy block day.  Crazy. I teach all four block periods with only an hour free for lunch and “activity”.  Yesterday, the yearbook staff had their virtual artist session during this period.  The girls brought their lunches to my room and we had a conference call with a designer who showed us some ideas for our cover.  Pretty cool technology and the girls loved every minute of it, but it meant I was racing yesterday from one class to another from 7-3 without any real break.  Which left me totally burnt out and unwilling to bring any additional work home with me that night.  8 hours for that day, but it felt like 80.

So from Friday through Tuesday I’m logging 29 hours.

It’s going to be a long day today because I’m the freshman class moderator and we have their induction ceremony tonight.  More on that in another post!


Brainstorming on Pinterest

Today was a productive 11 hour day for me.  It was the first night off I’ve had from my SuperSalesGal job all week, so I had a lot of projects I was hoping to complete.  Well, complete may have been a bit overly-ambitious…

So my biggest accomplishment (and by “my,” I really mean “my yearbook staff’s”) was making real progress on our theme plan for this year’s book.  I have a pretty inexperienced staff and, although we’ve been developing theme for three weeks, they’ve been very hesitant to commit to any ideas.  I haven’t rushed the process, but I admit that I entered class today thinking, “We are never going to have a theme.”

So I took roll and put the list we had brainstormed up on the board.  I asked which of the 3 they’d focused on yesterday was standing out to them today.

They chose number 4. Le sigh.

But then something magical happened.  Something about #4 (which had been on the list for weeks, but never really considered) clicked with them today. I asked why it would be relevant…they named off reason after reason.  I asked how it would apply to coverage, theme pages and spin-offs…they chimed in like they had the routine rehearsed.  It was amazing.

They were clearly on a roll, so I wanted to keep the momentum going. The only problem was that I hadn’t prepared any material on the next step of theme development – brainstorming relevant visuals.

So I went to the best way I know to create a visual brainstorming board – Pinterest.  

The wealth of visuals we found on Pinterest occupied us for the remainder of class.  Before long, we were sketching out original ideas and piecing together a viable theme plan for the book.

Thank goodness the TechGuys unblocked Pinterest on the school network this year. 😉

Five Things Yearbook Taught Me

I had just finished my second year of teaching when I was approached by a school administrator who asked me to take over the yearbook program the following year. I had never served on a yearbook staff myself. I’m not a photographer or designer. (To be honest, I earned a C in Intro to Art.) Writing is a hobby of mine, but I certainly don’t consider myself a pro. I was in no way qualified to take on the task.


What is a “yerd” and is there a vaccine?

Now I’m entering my seventh year as an adviser.  I’m still not a pro at photography, writing or design, but I’ve come a long way.  Today I spent my planning period meeting with my yearbook rep. We reviewed the budget, set our deadlines, discussed a workshop opportunity for my staff and planned my goals for the year. She also brought us a surprise – a shiny new plaque to add to our award wall.  Our 2013 book was accepted to our publishers gallery of excellence – making it the third book I’ve had the pleasure of advising to receive this honor.

So I got to thinking. What skills have I picked up over the years advising? Here are five.

Yearbook has taught me…

  1. the rule of thirds. Never will I ever take another photo with the subject smack-dab in the center. I’ve also learned an appreciation for candid shots that fill the frame. And show emotion. And, when possible, interaction. Ok – so let’s just say the basics of photo composition; that’s something yearbook has taught me.
  2. that high-end makeup brands must spend an insane amount of money on their product packaging. No, really. Those boxes have a matte lamination finish, silk screening and, often, embossing AND debossing. Isn’t that nuts? Some even have hot foiling. That is some pimped-out packaging. “Who cares,” you ask? A yearbook adviser who tries to guide her staff’s cover ideas while watching the budget – that’s who.
  3. there is a right way to create a bulletin board collage. Or hang photos in your home. Or place products on a shelf.  And none of them involved TRAPPED WHITE SPACE. Call it what you will…the magic diamond, the target, the missing brick, whatever.  Yearbook has taught me a new appreciation for visual balance.
  4. not all fonts are created equal and there are people in this world (primarily yerds) who will judge you based on your font choice.
  5. to love learning.  I am not a photographer, designer or journalist – at least, not by trade. Advising yearbook has pushed me to educate myself in all of these areas and more. I’ve bought text books, taken classes, networked, attended workshops and conventions, and followed pinterest boards from publishing companies and industry professionals.  I have a lot to learn, but I’m not intimidated by it.

After meeting with my rep today, it was a yearbook afternoon for me.  I prepped some lessons and wrote out an agenda for a staff meeting.  I also stopped by a local camera store and picked up some new equipment. That’s one thing about the job on which I didn’t need a tutorial. When it comes to shopping, I’m a natural. 😉

11 hours for today.


Classroom Tour

Drumroll, please…

The classroom is finally ready to go!  Well, mostly.  It’s at least to the point where I feel prepared to receive students.  Without further adieu…


Here’s the entrance area. (As a yearbook adviser, I feel compelled to put out the disclaimer that the awkward empty space at the top of the bulletin board is KILLING me, but I know it will be filled with flyers and information once school starts so I’m letting it go.)

I teach theology at a catholic school, so I need to set the tone when you first step in the room.  On the front bulletin board, I hung a cross (a souvenir from Italy) and leaned a framed print of different images of Christ on top of the book shelf.  The poster is old and I hope to replace it with a faith themed poster instead. (Etsy, here I come!)  The border on the whiteboard reads, “…teach me your ways so I may know you…Exodus 33:13”. The plan is to use this section of the board for daily prayer intentions.

In addition to teaching theology, I also advise yearbook.  The  bookcase in the front of the room contains yearbook supplies.  The table holds our yearbook “mail center” which is waiting to be updated and organized by the new staff.  The yearbook supplies continue on the other side of the door as well.

The other items on bulletin board are the “essentials” – schedules, the lunch rotation, class sponsors, emergency procedures, etc.  On top of the table is a Mickey Mouse tray which holds extra pens for student use (no touching my nice pens on my desk!), tissues and the bathroom sign-out.  I have 27 desks in my room and no space for extras, but our school hosts middle school visitors each year.  I got the stack of purple chairs from a retiring teacher and pull them out whenever I need a spare seat.

Yearbook area continued.

Yearbook area continued.

The whiteboard in this area is divided into sections for the yearbook staff to utilize (More on this area in a future post). The computers are for my staff’s use. The bulletin board in the back is their’s as well.

Personal area. (The In Style magazine on the desk is not a product placement.  Don't they feature photos of all the places their magazine is taken?  Maybe I can be their back to school issue!)

Personal area. (The In Style magazine on the desk is not a product placement. Don’t they feature photos of all the places their magazine is taken? Maybe I can be their back to school issue!)

This is the back of the classroom and my own little corner. I’m spoiled and get my room all to myself, so this is the are I’ve claimed. The wire shelves contain planning materials and a stack of prayer books. The metal file holder on the top of the desk has six sections – one for each of my classes. My pen holder (Go Cards!) holds my favorite grading pens and behind the desk you can see part of my Keurig (what did teachers do before the Keurig?). The bulletin board next to the wire shelves is my personal board. It changes throughout the year as I find new treasures and receive gifts and cards from students and friends that I want to display. (Featuring my “I’d rather be at Pemberley” sticker!)

In the opposite other desk!

In the opposite corner…my other desk!

The front desk is my “computer desk” – ShinyNewMonitor(!) has arrived. The bulletin board in this area displays all my photos former students have given me along with a poster that reads, “Wherever you go, you leave a footprint.”

The purple shelves on top of the heater/air conditioner were a bargain I found at Good Will. They came in sets of three and were originally varying shades of blue. I painted them all and stacked them up. They’re a perfect spot to feature some of my treasures and trinkets I’ve collected over the years.

The tall bookshelf has a shelf for each of my four preps. Each theology class has an assigned plastic tray where students turn in papers. I’m a total stickler about the turn-in trays. After 8 years, I’ve learned that it’s best to have one designated area to accept all incoming assignments. If it wasn’t placed in the tray, it wasn’t turned in as far as I’m concerned.

Computer desk.  I really just took this picture to document that it is possible for me to have this desk cleared off.  (I'll need this reminder later.)

Computer desk. I really just took this picture to document that it is possible for me to have this desk cleared off. (I’ll need this reminder later.)

Poster on the podium in the front of the room.  Quote by Rosa Parks.

Poster on the podium in the front of the room. Quote by Rosa Parks.

In addition to finishing the classroom preparations (finally!), I also updated my phone extension list, shared my new classroom technology procedure with some colleagues and updated my class participation logs. Oh, and we had our second welcome back meeting in the morning. This means my grand total of work hours today was 9.5.

Distribution Day – One Yearbook Out, Let the Next One Begin!

I’m just going to come right out and say it, I’m logging a bajillion hours for today.  That’s what it feels like I worked.  Today was the day every yearbook adviser dreads and looks forward to at the same time…Distribution Day (but mostly dreads).

I started out early today and gave myself plenty of time to stop for iced coffee on the way to school (a MUST!). Once there, I grabbed my supplies from the classroom and headed over to the cafeteria for distribution.  Normally I would have my staff up there to actually take care of the distribution; but this year, I’m in the (terrifying!) unique position of having only one returning staffer. My staff last year consisted of 11 seniors and two freshman. One of the now-sophomores is coming back, but this is a major rebuilding year, so I expected to do a lot of the work I would normally delegate to the editors.

My set up for distribution was pretty low-key. Our distribution is part of a back-to-school event where students have the yearbook picture taken, pick up their laptops and organize their lockers. Our distribution table is just one of several stops for the students. I placed class lists by grade level at the front of the table with pens. Students checked off their names and grabbed a book. No fuss.*

Once they opened the cafeteria doors, it was non-stop from 9am until noon. I spent most of that time unpacking more yearbooks, fixing laptops issues, pointing out lockers (to the freshmen) and catching up with students. Several advisees stopped by to thank me for their welcome back cards.

After distribution, I went out to grab a quick lunch and then came back to work on…you guessed it…my classroom. Again. I’m beginning to think that my classroom door is leading me into some kind of space-time vortex. I keep going in and thinking, “I’m almost done” and then, hours later, leaving and thinking, “There’s so much to do!” To prove I’ve been working, here’s a list of what I did today:
– switched a “hodge-podge” bulletin board to a picture board showcasing photos given to me by students
– found a place for the three boxes of extra yearbooks that will be picked up over the next couple of weeks
– cleaned and organized my desk drawer (This was a JOB, let me tell you.)
– set-up a new organization/file system for my advisement (So exciting! More in a future post.)
– pulled all the desks that need to be replaced

I also spent some time teaching a coworker how to set up her seating arrangements using our online system. So maybe not a bajillion, but eight hours of work on a Saturday still has me feeling fairly accomplished. 🙂

Don’t expect a post from me tomorrow. I have to work open to close at the retail job, and then I hope to spend my last night of “vacation” with my family.*I should mention I work at a private school where the yearbook is included in the activity fees. This means every student gets a book and makes distribution much easier.