Yearbook Bootcamp: Educate, train and get your staffers ready for the field

With classes, clubs and sports back in action, there’s no time to lose. We need to train our yearbook troops and get them out in the field. If you’re like most yearbook staffs, you have a few newbies who need to learn the difference between a pica and a pixel.

But how do you cover a wealth of yearbook information and start meeting your deadlines? Send those recruits to boot camp! Boot camp is an effective way to cover multiple topics in a shortened time span. It will give new staffers an introduction to the yearbook world and act as a refresher for returning staff members. A successful boot camp just takes a little strategy and planning.

Decide what topics to cover.

What do staff members really need to know to get started? What can they learn along the way? As a starter, we’d recommend focusing on the skills the staff needs to conduct interviews, write stories, use the design software and take pictures. Going over style guidelines, equipment check-out procedures and deadline expectations are also worthy topics.

Let editors take the lead.

New and returning staffers will see who’s in charge and look to those editors for guidance instead of relying on just the adviser. Putting them in charge also will help the editors build confidence and take responsibility for the book’s completion.

Make sure it’s more than show and tell.

Editors should meet with the adviser to go over their teaching strategies and content. Include time in the lesson for practice. The staffers won’t really grasp the new concepts by just watching. If you’re covering interviews, have new staffers ask each other questions and come up with new ones on the spot. If you’re teaching photo cutouts, have students try removing the backgrounds. The hands-on approach will ensure the new skills take.

Consider a round-robin format.

By breaking the staff into small groups and having stations, multiple topics can be covered in one day. The smaller groups also provide an intimate setting that can aid in the learning process. It’s a lot easier to teach yearbook design to four students than 20.

Bootcamp stations

Keep it short and sweet.

Strive to limit boot camp sessions to 15-20 minutes. The shortened time periods mean more subjects can be addressed. The number of topics you want to cover determines the number of days you hold boot camp. While editors are leading the sessions, the adviser can be the time moderator, keeping the groups on schedule. The boot camp approach isn’t meant to teach them everything. It’s a basic overview of the main skills the staff will need. Staffers will learn the rest as they go, when they’re out in the field doing interviews, writing stories and taking photos. They’ll make mistakes, but learning from them will make them stronger writers, designers and photographers. It may only be September, but it’s time to fall in. Get those yearbook recruits ready to march into the year.