Category Archives: yearbook

It’s Different

Walking into the scene shop to get started organizing yearbooks, my breath caught and I had to swallow tears. Usually opening the boxes is one of the most joyful moments of the year. There’s music and dancing and awe when the editors have the staff gather round for the unveiling.

The editors take the staff through page by page and tell them stories, and we laugh, even over the pages that made us cry.

And then the kids alphabetize the yearbook boxes, find their books and pour over the pages for an hour. After that we have our awards ceremony and eat.

Then it’s more organizing followed by the staff signing party.

Kids are in and out because they have tests or makeup work or projects to present. The room is constant activity. Constant music—sometimes I have to say “hey, language in the newsroom,” and we laugh and laugh and laugh.

Then we open the doors for early distribution and the signing party.

Sometimes there’s cake.

This year it’s me and DH, and it’s all task oriented. Do this, do that, get done.

Distribution starts Tuesday and runs 3 hours a day through Friday.

I have no idea what to expect.

I don’t have those feel-good moments of watching my editors open their books for the first time. I don’t have video of them going through page by page. I don’t have the happy to get me through the complaints that are simply part of the publication process.

Or the memories of the staff as they look trough their books. This year’s book is the biggest ever for CTHS at 255 pages. The staff would have loved that celebration.

I know I need to shift my mindset. To embrace the happy that happened. But this is hard.

I’m thankful to DH. For 21 years he’s offered to help with yearbooks. Today he got to do it!

I’m so proud of my editors who can’t be with me today but who worked SO HARD. They completed over 100 pages at home in a month on little laptops in quarantine. A parent emailed me in April to see if we were even going to have a yearbook since school closed and nothing happened. I was able to say “oh, no. We had a year and a lot happened. And the end looked different, but we still have a book. And the book even covers the end.” We have four spreads of National COVID coverage—thanks Walsworth— and two spreads of CTHS coverage done with help from all my classes. That’s a victory, a huge thing to be happy over!

I’m so thankful to my school and the support they’ve shown.

One more week.

It’s not the book we planned exactly, some pages had to be replaced, but it will always be the most memorable. And through the bad—thanks Coronavirus—there were some really great moments.

DH helping with yearbooks. ❤️💜💛

Day 5243

The President suggested injecting disinfectant to stop the virus today so there’s that. 😲

I planned on sending out applications to teacher recommended students when we got back to school after spring break.

I sent out the emails today.

I hope some will accept the challenge. And it will be a challenge! But it’s an important thing for us to do. It will be different, but we will still have a year to cover.

Today is the first day in forever I didn’t spend all day on my computer or phone reaching out to my students. I let them email me and responded instead. I can’t do that often but I needed to breathe today.

And I visited my parents for the first time in six weeks. I kept my mask on the whole time and was sanitized. I couldn’t stand being so close and not seeing them. Mom hugged me and I almost started crying because I know that wasn’t safe but she needed that hug and I did too.

I don’t want this to be our new normal.

Expected But

Campuses are closed for the rest of the school year.

I knew that was coming. I agree with the governor’s decision. It’s the only right answer.

And still.

I can’t stop crying.

I can’t stop crying because I really love these kids and I can’t tell them. I can’t call on Teams and have a big mourning session for the end of the year.

I’ve learned I can’t write the words I want to say. Writing has always been the way I best communicate. But in a world where everything is in writing, I’ve lost my words.

I can’t hug the kids. I can’t fix this.

And we have to finish the yearbook.

My editors have worked so hard. Yearbook is fun at school. It’s not fun like this. It’s work with a purpose. It’s learning. But final deadline is not fun. It’s a necessity. And at school we get the payoff, the excitement, the other staffers, teacher support and kids support and admin support.

Now, these kids are doing all the hard without the payoff.

And it’s my job to fix that. It’s my job to find the fun. To figure out a way to celebrate and be a motivator and help them see the importance of what we do.

But I can’t because I can’t stop crying.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t want my beautiful editors to finish the year with a negative view of what we do. I don’t want to hurt them with my words. I want to build.

This really sucks.

That is all. Except

I miss school. This isn’t school. But it is what it has to be.

I miss peace and hope.

That’s gone too.

At least right now it is.

I was going to make some scones to eat my emotions, but the strawberries I planned on using are gone, so I can’t even do that.

I know I’ll get through this. I just wish I didn’t have to.

The Good Day

My editors this year are incredible.

Here we are in the middle of a global pandemic. The end of their senior year spent in their homes for at the most part, sometimes at work. But not at school, not where they can direct the end of the production of the biggest yearbook our school has done, not where we can play and laugh and be silly and make fun of each other. Not where they can plan yearbook Olympics and theme parties. Not…And yet, they are finishing.

They are collaborating with their staff, asking for help, doing what they can do to finish this book. They’re uploading and downloading, emailing, texting, snap chatting, doing everything it takes to honor the school with their book.

We’re down to two proof parts to be done. Still a couple weeks to go but so, so close.

I finished the senior tribute for my senior staff members today and cried for a good 30 minutes.

I love these kids. It’s been an honor to serve as their adviser.

Thank you God for the good day.

Meditation Trial and Error: Tales From the Classroom

When I reach the end of my Calm session and the coach says “okay, now if you’re ready, open your eyes…” I’m never ready.

I have a giant class this semester smack dab in the middle of the day. The class that follows is not big, but they are loud and excited about life all the time.

I asked if they wanted to try breathing with the Calm app and they were all in.

So we sat in a circle and closed our eyes and focused on breathing.

About half the class broke after a minute. They couldn’t stop the laughter.

It does feel awkward to sit silently breathing the first few times you meditate. It’s just weird when we’re so used to constant bombardment from a million different directions. So I get it.

A few of us kept breathing, but the kids who laughed got busy working.

We’ve tried a few more times with the same level of success.

Then yesterday hit and the kids sat in a circle breathing, no laughter, no anything other than breath and peace. When I stopped they said “Nooooooo! That was like a minute.”

Nope. 2 minutes 48 seconds.

We made it to 4 minutes and started work.

Y’all, those four minutes were everything.

The stress of the day was gone for me AND for the class. They were so much more focused in their work. And they could not believe how much time had passed.

We don’t meditate every day, and it’s completely optional. The kids said they wished we would make it an everyday exercise.

Maybe we will.

I just really like this new leggings print.

Living Deliberately

Maybe that headline is little too much, but I’m making a point to be a more aware of my time second semester.

It’s super easy to get caught in work and to live in the newsroom. I like it there. It’s fun. I like the kids. We do great work. The students like 80s music and will jump into a dance party on demand. I mean, yeah. It’s AWESOME.

But I need to reclaim my time. And they need to reclaim theirs.

Yes, after school deadlines are part of my world. No, staying after school every day is not healthy, wise or a good lesson for my kids.

So…

I have a signup sheet on the table. If kids need to work after school outside of designated work nights or past the 30 minutes I’m always here, they have to sign up on Monday for the week. They can’t stay after Friday. We’ll see about Saturday mornings. They’re fun but they make the weekend short, and that’s not good for any of us.

This live deliberately goal will require all of us to plan better. It will also encourage us to do more outside the classroom.

I want my room to be vibrant and alive and exciting and fun. But I want us all to be healthy with the time we spend.

We’ll see how it works. 😊👩‍💻👏

An aside: you guys, Quest chips are LCHF heaven.

What I’m Loving: coffee, Diet Dr Pepper, these temperatures, Quest chips, LCHF, our yearbook cover, the scene I just wrote in my WIP, getting all my electrolytes in, the Daily Calm

What I’m Writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

21st Century Education: Yearbook

A few years ago someone asked me if yearbooks were even relevant anymore.

I was ready with my standard response: Kids in publications classes learn to communicate effectively, collaborate, problem solve, question why, tell their community’s story creatively and work on a deadline under massive stress in complete chaos. Relevant? Check out the 21st century education skill sets demanded by today’s top corporations and you’ll see yearbook checks almost every box. With design and surveys, it even makes the math cut.

Yearbook, newspaper and journalism classes aren’t just about the end product. BUT the end product does, in education speak, show mastery of the skills learned in the course. In yearbook’s case, the book encapsulates the school year FOREVER. In 50 years the book will be what people turn to to learn about the past. The yearbook is the school in book format.

Yearbook is not just relevant, it’s essential.

(More on this tomorrow.)

Part the Waters

This time of year is almost always tough in the yearbook advising business. Adding the weight of more school shootings, an awful flu season, the Texas political situation and its impacts educators and their healthcare, and a plethora of life’s emotional dings has made the last six weeks so tough.

Seriously.

This week has pushed and pushed and finally I felt like breaking.

In that moment as I sat in my classroom during my conference looking at what all has to be done and trying to find a plan to make it happen, I looked up and said, Jesus Help.

When I spoke those words I felt so completely broken and yet so completely sure that whatever else happens, God’s got me and I’ve got Him.

Within a couple of hours several little things happened to help relieve some of my worry.

I believe in the miraculous power of God. I believe the biggest miracle of all is God’s unending grace. I believe God had a hand in showing me yet again that if I turn to Him in my always those break down moments don’t have to be so all encompassing.

Yesterday nothing huge changed in the day to day business of a stressful final deadline when deadlines have been a struggle all year. There was no physical “Part the Waters” moment. But that moment of prayer and the peace that came after…the psychological and emotional sense of peace and comfort…it was beautiful.

I’m sitting in my classroom now, and I know it’s going to be okay.

My prayer is this: Lord, help me to remember my why in the classroom instead of letting deadline become my focus. Help me to let go and let You, help me to rest assured in the knowledge that when things are overwhelming, I can turn to You, but I don’t have to wait until that moment. You are always even when I forget.

Opening lyrics to the song that I love so much: When I think I’m going under, part the waters, Lord

When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea

When I cry for help, oh, hear me, Lord

And hold out Your hand

Touch my life Still the raging storm in me

Yearbook Day

I want the yearbooks I advise to make kids happy. I hope when they look at the book they see their school and think, wow, my school is so cool! I want people who don’t go to my school to look at the book and think, wow, I wish I went to that school. And I want the book to be pretty. 

When the book comes out, I hope it looks like the process of making it was effortless.  (Hahahahaha.)

And, I’m not gonna lie, I hope people say they love the book.

All of the above is me. The kids on staff want to world to love their hard work. They want kudos too.

Which is why for years, ever since adviser Lori Oglesbee shared her yearbook day letter at a workshop, I’ve done the same.

The letter says something along the lines of: yay yearbook! Then: all the facts about distribution. Then:  to teachers, in the same way you wouldn’t criticize an athlete for a bad play or a theatre kid for a flubbed line, please do not hurt the kids by complaining about the book to them and please come see me if there are real issues that need to be addressed. 

I warn the kids to be ready. Love your work. Be proud. You did an amazing job. You took all these pages that were completely blank and turned them into this beautiful work of art. But there will be mistakes because this is a printed product produced on a deadline and you and I are human. Mistakes are part of the process. And mistakes or complaints will be a constant in your day when we release the book. Love the book anyway. And come up with some great ways to handle the minor complaints: oh man, I am so sorry! Wait. We only have 12 people on staff next year. You should fit yearbook in your schedule and we won’t have that problem! Or oh wow! Yeah. You have 100s in all your classes too, right? No? But it’s the same thing. Our mistakes are just published. Or just a simple I am so sorry meant for real. On the big things I tell the kids to bring the kid with the issue to me. 

We do respond now though. But always in a way that hopefully stays fun. Negativity is a snowball. Little things grow and grow and before you know it one person’s little problem has become an entire group’s avalanche of awful. Add in social media and you’ve got a mess sometimes. 

And all of that is so important for the kids to learn and experience. 

Thick skin is something you have to acquire through trial by fire. Once you’ve got it, it serves you well for life. 

So yesterday was yearbook day 19 for me, and it was beautiful. And it was also tough. But more than anything, it was a huge part of the learning experience. 

Yay yearbook!


The photos are from when the staff saw their book for the first time. They were so happy. That’s the moment that makes advising the best!

Senior Pictures

Did you get your senior picture taken? Did you make your senior appointment? Don’t forget the senior deadline. Get your picture done. According to my records you have not had your senior picture taken. Hey guys, help me out. Here’s a list of seniors not pictured. Can you tell the kids in your classes to get their pictures made? Okay, Lifetouch will be on campus on THIS DATE to take your last minute senior pictures. 

Hello. This is Mary Beth Lee. According to my records your senior has not yet had their photo taken for the yearbook. Lifetouch will be on campus on THIS DATE to take all last minute senior photos. This is the LAST chance for your senior to be photographed for the yearbook.

Notes (168 of them last year) delivered in class the week before final chance photos. Appointments required. Appointments made. 

Library set up. Pictures taken. 

Yearbook day: I’m not in the senior section!! Did you get your picture taken? Well, I did, in January. I called you, sent you notes, made your teachers harass you, the counselors called you down AND I made announcements the entire time Lifetiuch was here for last chance photos in OCTOBER. You’re right. You’re not in the senior section.
My introduction to my new school came courtesy of senior pictures. EM-S ISD uses a company called Glamour Craft, and they were on campus this week taking senior pictures. My new admin wanted me in the building just in case I was needed. I wasn’t, and that’s probably a good thing.

Monday was tough. I started unpacking my boxes and setting up shop in the new digs. It doesn’t feel like home yet. Brian and I stayed at the Venetian once. It was the swankiest place I’ve ever been. We had a butler and a doorbell. But we were still happy when we got home to the old house. That’s what Monday felt like. My new school is like the Venetian. But I have to find a way to make IT home.

I grew up in black and gold. I chose to swap the black with purple.

When I finished unpacking Monday, I sat at the computer and said What the heck have you done, Mary Beth?

After a few tears, I shook the bad feelings off and reminded myself I always hate school before the kids get there. Then I made a list of things I needed, because lists make me happy.

A bookcase was at the top of the list. Walmart to the rescue. $15.96 for a Mainstay 3-shelf bookcase. Sign me up.

People who know me understand the hilarity that was about to ensue. When it comes to mechanical issues, I’m pretty sure I have a learning disability. The book case instructions were photos. No words. YouTube took care of that. Two videos later (random guy:awesome, Target, your video is foreign language to people like me who don’t speak assembly required!), I tackled the project. 

Step 1: go find a screw driver because I left my years of tool collecting in the old newsroom.

Step 2: arrange everything and make sure the pictures match.

Step 3: use the hammer

Steps 5-9: suck it up and get over being afraid of doing it wrong. Do the work.

Step 10: unpack the books and put them in alpha order in the new shelf.

And with those books, a whole lot of joy.

Because words are my business and books are my first friends and sharing books with my students makes me so happy. 

That bookcase changed everything as far as attitude goes. 

I’ve taken a huge leap and change is crazy scary, but I’m still me, and my new kids will be my kids just like my old kids are still my kids. And this year is going to be hard, so hard, but hard isn’t bad. 

I’ll always bleed black and gold. But adding a little purple to the mix is a good thing. 


*I’m missing so many books. I think I lost a box somewhere. 

*putting old staff photos up on the shelf helped.

*a screw lock or something like that fell off the case. I threw it away because the case seemed fine without it. I hope the case is still standing when I make it back to the newsroom next week.

*standing there and letting fear stop you from moving forward is always the wrong answer.