Yearbook COPD, 2017

Two years ago I lamented about the middle school yearbook process. I just reread the posts, and they are as true today as they were back then.

I called it Yearbook COPD. A disease where the yearbook can be so stressful that sometimes it's difficult to breathe.

What is Yearbook COPD, you might ask?

Well, let's define COPD, first: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

A yearbook, in and of itself, truly is COPD.

It's chronic. The thing will never go away.

People often ask, "Do you think years will ever go away?"

"No," I say. "People will always want something tangible." I believe this is why actual books haven't gone extinct, why you can still get magazines printed on that thing...oh, what is it called?


Yes, paper. People still like the look and feel of the stuff. Have you seen those Vista Print commercials of late? Not only is paper not leaving us anytime soon, companies can do some pretty savvy things with it.

Not only will it not go away, it plagues me year after year. A yearbook, to me, truly is chronic. Just like IBS, Crones Disease, and psoriasis, a yearbook will lay dormant for weeks. There's no stress, stories are getting written, photos are getting taken.

Then it happens. A flair up.

The stress of the book spikes. I realize no one has taken photos of the eighth grade girls basketball team. We have a ton of seventh grade girls basketball photos, but no eighth grade. Then, it's realized, that the seventh grade photos are no good because they are all of the same girl. Sure, she's a good player, but she's not the entire team.

We can't publish three photos of the same girl.

That's just excessive. Middle school egos are a sensitive thing. We must fuel them only so much.

But, after a few days of trouble-shooting and remaining patient, eighth graders step up and get the much-needed photos, and not only do they take those photos, they've seen what is needed, and they do a wonderful job.

Crisis averted. We can take a breath. That is, until the next flair up.

And there is always another flair up.

The yearbook knows how to get in the way. During the month of January through March, the yearbook demands all of my attention. It doesn't matter that I have a newspaper class to teach, a magazine students need to publish, social media stories that need to be uploaded, video announcements that will be filmed.

The yearbook is a jealous suitor. None of that other stuff matters.

Finding the balance is difficult sometimes. The yearbook obstructs. It gets in the way. Usually, in order to keep my sanity so I'm not working on school work for hours on end, something has to give.

The most important thing is to publish my students' work. We need to post on Twitter -- we've got almost 500 followers. We need to build our Instagram base because that's where we can reach more of our students, since they have accounts, and don't always pick up a magazine. We need to focus on not chewing gum while on camera for video announcements.

We have to meet the yearbook publisher's deadlines. The book must be delivered on time.

So, the thing that goes is grading. As long as I'm publishing student work, I feel justified that, sometimes, a group of students get full credit just for turning their work in.

I've given feedback, I've worked with writers, pushing them to include details in their articles, and we are publishing, publishing, publishing.

All that work is done during class, so the grading that would happen outside of class, sometimes, just. Goes. Away.

I have 144 pages of yearbook that I look through to make sure they are as good as they are going to get. And those 144 pages are seen my a thousand or more eyes.

A student's grade is seen my only a few.

There's only so much time in a day.

And, people, I need to eat and sleep.

A yearbook is not going to obstruct that.

A yearbook is a living, breathing thing. It's almost like raising a creative child each year.

At the beginning of the year, there is conception. Ideas are thrown around, rough drafts are created, crayon and pencil shavings are flying, and hours are chiseled into the look and theme of the book.

Once the theme is chosen, it's time to feed the theme with stories, solid designs, photographs, blood, sweat and tears. Pages are completed. Pages are submitted. The book grows. The theme solidifies and matures.

There are arguments, it gets blemishes. It has mood swings. It gets lazy. We get mad at it. There are many times we look at it and beam with pride.

We teach the book to walk. Then run. And then, soon enough, the book is ready to leave the nest. We've done all that we can do. The book is complete.

And it lives forever.

A yearbook is incurable. It returns year after year, and regardless of all the things I've learned to make the process slicker, stronger, and better, it still ails me.

I will complain about the aches and pains it causes. There are sleepless nights. The headaches can almost feel like migraines.

There is no cure.

Luckily, this year, I trusted the process more than ever. I didn't stress out as much.

And the book was finished 10 days before final deadline.