When I interviewed for my first teaching job, in 1997, the principal said they were looking to replace their yearbook teacher, and would I be interested. Like anyone hoping to get hired, I said that yearbook was my life’s ambition. I had a degree in journalism, had worked as a journalist, and had been editor in chief of my high school newspaper. Despite all that, I knew nothing about yearbook, but I was enthusiastic and started attending summer camps put on by the yearbook company and the annual high school journalism conference at Columbia University. I talked to other advisers and called my rep on the daily, learning all I could about making the best yearbook I could.
I eventually took four years off from teaching when my children were born, and when I returned, to a new school, I was made an almost identical offer. They needed to replace their yearbook adviser and would I be willing to revamp their program. Again, I said yearbook was my absolute favorite thing in the world, got the job, and have spent the past seven years trying to make the best possible yearbook I could.
In those 15 years of teaching, I have also taught newspaper, Intro to Journalism, sophomore English and senior Advanced Placement Literature and Composition. I have loved all those courses, but none has consumed me, and exhausted and frustrated me, like yearbook.
The best part of teaching yearbook, the part I know I will miss the most, are the relationships I build with students. Attending camp with the editors, spending time every day working on this major project and learning about my students’ lives, are all elements no other class has room for. The students I have remained the closest to have all been from yearbook. The single best moment – the opening of the boxes in May and finally holding the book while looking into the eyes of the editors who dreamed it over a year before – that moment I know I’ll mourn.
But the yearbook year is filled with thousands of other moments: the moment when a parent is yelling at me because her daughter’s name wasn’t tabbed right in the index; the moment when my weakest staff member hands me a page of blurry, pixelated photos of kids looking down at a desk and I know I have to take it because he can’t (or won’t) do better; the moment when I want to scream at the helpline guy because I can’t flow the junior class images the way I want to; the moment when I try to reconcile the finances at the end of the year and I can’t get the numbers to come out right; the moment I have to force the same photobomber of his sixth attempt at club photo day. Those moments, and thousands more, have worn me down. I simply feel exhausted of it.
I would not have left the returning students to a new, overwhelmed teacher without experience. I was that teacher and I know how hard it is. I have found a replacement from within the current English department. She’s excited to take over and I know I’m leaving my staff in capable hands. Next year, when I watch her laugh at inside jokes with her editors, when I hear about the new design they created at camp, I know I’ll have moments of regret. I’ll turn away with a smile and a small sigh.
Current and former yearbook students, still in my life through the magic of the world wide web, give yourselves a hug from me right now. Thank you for giving me 12 years of amazing moments. Thank you for giving your time and energy creating yearbooks I am tremendously proud of. Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives.