Dear Yearbook Students…

Dear Yearbook Students,

I see how hard you work all year. Even though I’m not your adviser, occasionally you ask my advice, you let me preview work you’re proud of, and of course, sharing a room with you I get to witness your shenanigans, and sometimes those shenanigans even make me laugh.

I field phone calls and sell yearbooks and answer questions and beg seniors to get their photos in on time, because I want your product to be something you’re proud of.

And every year, you create a book.

Read that sentence again.

How many students in this building can say they’ve done that?

Are there mistakes? Maybe. I wrote a thesis in graduate school; it’s on the Internet for everyone to see. I’ve reread it once since I turned it in and I’m horrified at my word choice, lapses in logic, even tiny grammar errors. Mistakes happen in writing and publishing.

Look at any issue of the newspaper long enough and you’ll find plenty of mistakes, both in text and design. Those pages are read dozens of times and we still miss things.

The first year I coached speech, one group of students had a piece that cleaned up at every tournament. Won everything in sight. A state title was inevitable. And in the 2nd round of competition at state, a judge interpreted the rules of the event much differently than I had, and disqualified the group.

I was devastated. The kids were devastated. I was angry and felt like I had completely failed my students. Even thinking about it now, 12 years later, I feel twinges of shame. But in time, we got over it, and you can be sure we never made that mistake again.

Step back for a moment and think about what you did, and what kind of character that required. What kind of bravery, to publish your photos and writing and design and then willingly hand it out to your peers for their enjoyment and scrutiny.

And scrutiny often abounds. As Russell Baker noted in 1995, “anger has become our national habit.” He said that before you were born. It’s been a problem for a while, and right now it might feel like it’s getting worse, especially when everyone in the world feels entitled to express their opinion (and of course, everyone is right).

So relax. Enjoy your yearbook. Ignore the haters, and if the scrutiny and criticism seems too much, just remember there are plenty more people who love what you did, and love you too.

Including me.


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