How to plan an in-class work day

6 a.m. and angry

Let me set the scene for you. I woke up to an angry email from a parent about a (non)issue regarding coverage of her kid’s sports group, detailing just how much they do for the community and how we don’t appreciate them enough. Before my teeth were even brushed, my student’s (award winning) publication, (countless hours of) hard work, and my leadership were berated and criticized in one swift motion. My principal was copied on the message, I’m sure to garner my attention.

However – that’s just the life of a journalism adviser – honestly, it doesn’t even phase me anymore. I went to school and prepared to carefully craft a quippy message (to put her in her place) but grace and a smile on the side. But, my principal is AWESOME and responded before the first period bell even rang – beautifully defending my program and my kids and letting her know the facts.

He met with the yearbook staff that day for about 20 minutes (which is a LOT of time in Principal Land) and he got to really see what they were working on. (Sometimes I think they think that yearbooks are put together by magical elves and all the staff does is eat Cheetos. Which is also true sometimes.)

It made me realize that I needed to invite him down to my room more often – he needs to see the process! But I also used it as an opportunity to ask him for a favor. #GoodTiming

I just… asked

I KNEW he would probably say HECK NO – and I would completely understand – but I figured it was worth a shot. I credit 97% of the “yes” being to when I asked. That, and having a good relationship with your principal is ALWAYS key to being a successful journalism adviser.

I have the hardest working staff I’ve ever had, and the kids were constantly working to get their pages done in time for our first deadline. But we just weren’t quite there yet. After Harvey, we lost two solid weeks of production time (which is a LOT of time in Yearbook Land).

So I asked for an “In-Class Field Trip” to use as an all-day workday.

It’s asking a lot – the kids need excused absences, I need a substitute, my other classes need somewhere to go, etc. But he was able to see them working and the progress and I mentioned that the deadline was the next Monday, and his answer just wasn’t yes – it was “absolutely!”

Honestly – I was shocked. But SO thankful.

Because I’m a fan of details

  • Let your other classes just chill. I didn’t want to worry about sub plans for a day PhotoJ and J1 would be in the multipurpose room without cameras and computers. So they had a study hall day. No one died, kids still learned journalism things the next day. Ain’t nobody got time for sub plans sometimes.
  • I got them breakfast – donuts are so cheap but for a littttttle bit more you can get breakfast tacos or kolaches that make them much happier – and they’re more substantial. I also thought about pancakes but I didn’t want to spend the time making them when I could be helping them.
  • I made a SignUpGenius for an Italian Feast. I brought about 87 pounds of spaghetti that took me 2 hours to cook. OK, it was really 20.3 lbs. Yes, I weighed it. Put some olive oil in the spaghetti so it doesn’t stick together in the fridge overnight. Then I had each kid bring one thing – marinara sauce, alfredo sauce, frozen meatballs and chicken, parmesan cheese, garlic bread, salad kits, dressing, drinks, plates/cups, etc. I brought crock pots to warm the sauce and meatballs – be sure to leave out some sauce without meat for the vegetarians! The kids LOVED it and it was so easy and cheap for everyone!
  • Schedule the day. I let me editors plan the day, so we spent each class period focusing on something specific. Cutouts, interviews, copy editing, layout editing, some free work time, and peer editing. I let them go to their AP classes for lessons or tests if needed, because my kids are just like that. I required the Late Arrival or Early Release kids to stay the whole day. Editors stayed after to tweak, and then I submitted everything at the end of it all!

The result

It was the smoothest deadline submission ever and I fully credit it to this All Day Work Day. We likely would not have made it without that, and I am so thankful we were allowed to do it! We definitely won’t be able to do it every deadline, but even 1 or 2 through the year helps A LOT.

The staff loved getting to hang out all day as well. Singing along to songs, crying when the software crashed, laughing at each other’s jokes, and creating new inside jokes. They’re even communicating better now afterward, now that they feel more comfortable with each other.

Just try it!

Two takeaways… make it a practice to invite your principal down to actually SEE what your kids are doing. It is an opportunity to develop a good relationship with your admin – you never know when you’ll need that.

And, see if you can swing an in-class field trip as a workday. Let me know if you’d done this, or will try it – and how it goes!

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