Managing Multiple Publications in the Same Class
This school year has been the most hectic and chaotic of my eight-year career. The main source of that chaos was trying to manage yearbook, magazine and website in the same hour, with different staffs, in different rooms. To say this was less than ideal is an understatement. Did I mention this was going to be our first year transitioning from a monthly newspaper to a magazine as well as starting a website? Probably not my brightest idea.
I tried everything I could think of last year to convince my admin to separate the classes, but my efforts were futile. The classes were going to be combined, so I had to make the best of it and prepare as best I could over the summer for what this hour of my day would look like.
Originally, I thought it would be fairly easy to manage my time between the two classes. We had class during fifth hour, which was the lunch hour and the longest class of the day. I would spend the first portion with one class, we’d all go to lunch, and I’d spend the last portion with the other class. This sounds great on paper, but it did not play out well once we started our production schedules. Students on both staffs needed my attention at the same time, and I was not prepared for how taxing this would be not only on me, but on my students as well.
I was far from perfect in handling our situation this year, but I at least came away with some helpful tips in case I’m faced with this situation again. These aren’t exclusive to managing multiple publications in the same class, but they are my takeaways from how this school year has gone for me.
I thought I was an organized person before. I had schedules, checklists, rubrics, etc., but I had to constantly be aware of where every staff member was in their process. Before, I was able to focus on one for an hour, then switch gears when the other staff came into my room. I like to compartmentalize details, so this was a struggle for me. I had to keep multiple copies of things in each room so they were easily accessible. We’re not 1-to-1 yet, so I don’t have a computer available to use in the other room.
Next year, I’ve told all my editors we’re going to use Trello. Many advisers already use this system to manage your deadlines, so I’m hoping this will be a better tool to manage due dates and let everyone see how stories are progressing.
*Pick strong leaders
This is always essential to the success of a publication, but it’s especially so when these leaders will be in charge when the adviser not in the room. They have to be assertive, but not power-hungry. They have to be friendly, but still motivating. Leaders also have to get along with each other. We had a bit of a power struggle with section editors and the EIC at the beginning of the year that took up more time than any of us had to spare. It eventually worked itself out, but it was rocky through September.
One thing that helped was going to camp over the summer. I took both staffs to the same camp. This was a wonderful experience for the yearbook staff. They bonded, designed their cover, made ladder/coverage decisions, and generally started out the year in a really good spot.
On the other hand, newspaper did not benefit as much. Part of this was because my EIC told students who were supposed to go to the Beginning Newspaper class to go ahead and join everyone else in the Advanced Newspaper class. Not a great way to start the year. Those newbies were overwhelmed and didn’t get the basics covered at camp.
*Split time equally
Giving both staffs equal attention was harder than I imagined it would be. There were times, around deadlines, that I would go a couple of days without hardly speaking to one staff or the other. I relied on the EIC to keep everyone on-task and focused. Some days, this worked better than others (see point about picking good leaders).
I also found myself gravitating to my yearbook staff because they were the more motivated group. They “caught on” to the concepts quicker, were more outgoing, and seemed to be a stronger unit. This probably wasn’t fair of me, but at least I’ve recognized this flaw in myself. Since that realization, I’ve made a more concerted effort to spend more time in the newspaper room, but this far in the game, Senior-itis has set in, and I’m basically in a holding pattern until May. I created this monster, so I have to live with it.
I’ve had meetings with next year’s leaders already, and they are motivated to turn things around and pick up the slack from this year. Here’s hoping I picked a strong combination of leaders!
Not everything about having all my publications kids in the same class period was horrible. It was nice to only have to give field trip information once. When we talked about general class procedures and equipment procedures, I could put everyone in the same room.
Another benefit was that the staffs were able to quickly and easily communicate with each other. They helped cover events for one another and helped each other with areas of weakness. The yearbook kids helped teach photography and Photoshop; the newspaper kids helped teach some AP Style and story development.
This year stressed me out on so many different levels, but at least I’ve learned from it. If I’m ever faced with combined classes again, I’ll have this experience to look back on and will be able to learn from my mistakes.