Halloween and Justin Timberlake: An average October in the life of an adviser

Halloween isn’t the only thing scary in the month of October. Somehow, this is always when it starts to feel like the wheels begin to fall off of my yearbook crew’s wagon.

My kids begin to panic under the pressure of the now-real deadline cycle, and it seems like chaos begins to brew and bubble over just like a witch’s cauldron with some potent ingredients.

I usually join in on the stress party by panicking about meeting deadlines and managing the budget. Not to mention… Every. Single. Email. About. Senior. Ads.

This fun combination of panic, stress and chaos seems to erupt right about this time every year, usually right around the time that group photo day is scheduled and we still have hundreds of kids to track down for picture retake days. The j-lab becomes a pretty tense place to be, both for my students and myself.

The fun, light-hearted conversations disappear from the beginning of class and my kids immediately jump into a panicked work mode.

This fuels my feelings of being totally overwhelmed. I’m definitely not an expert, and I’m still really new to this whole advising game. It feels so frustrating to see this tension developing, even more so when I realize I’m also becoming enveloped in it.

Then it hit me. I need to relax and breathe and stop stressing out. I was caught in a spin cycle of venting to my colleagues and adviser buddies from across the nation. My frustrations began to fuel and create new frustrations, and those feelings quickly become contagious. I am part of the problem.

I have been focusing on the worrisome details of advising a yearbook class, rather than looking for solutions to the problems and finding a way to foster a fun and rewarding experience.

This staff works as a team to build a shoe tower during a team-building exercise.

I started thinking about what was missing, and I realized the missing component was the fun. I have been so focused on making sure all of my classes are on the same page and producing work that I have completely forgotten about a huge component of why I love advising, not to mention why kids take the class. Fun!

It is time to go back to the team building, and the silly activities, and the fun. If I am not building in those breaks to get to know each other, and to celebrate each other, then I am falling short of the goals that I set for myself each year.

The hours spent in the lab should always feel like they are worth it, and part of that balance is making things fun. So, I went back to the notes that I have taken at various camps and adviser academies, and I have made a decision. Much like Justin Timberlake brought sexy back in 2006, I’m bringing the fun back in 2018.

The list below is a few of my favorite resources. For sure these were introduced to me by someone along the way…I’m sorry I can’t name drop (or give credit to) all of the amazing people who introduced me to these great activities.

  • The Ninja Game: See the link for a pretty epic version of the game, complete with soundtrack. My kids always love to play this. I don’t know why…but who really cares? They have fun and I always end up laughing.
  • The Human Knot (& 60 other ideas!): This activity works great when my kids are real fired up. It’s hard to be mad when you’re holding hands with people. Unless their hands are sweaty…
  • Personality Quizzes: My kids love learning about themselves, and it helps us relate better to one another as well. These are good for days when we need a low-key team builder. I usually have them take the quiz and then partner with someone who had different results to analyze what their personality types mean.

    Team-building activities keep the “fun” in a staff and help them meet expectations as a group.
  • Drawing Days: A great brain break/team building activity is to have kids draw. I have a couple of cool adult coloring books that we use. For team building, I have them work on a picture for a few minutes before they have to switch with a partner or small group. They can either keep working on the same area/design, or change the design completely. At the end, they discuss to debrief.
  • Compliments: Sometimes I just make my kids say nice things to each other. This is always awkward and forced at first, but it becomes second nature. It’s important.

That’s a short list, and there are so many more ways to bring fun into the classroom. I know that list isn’t inclusive of everything I have learned and tried, but it’s a start.

Ultimately, the team building will be implemented by my students. I know it will be. Just as they have followed my lead into the stress spin cycle, I know they will follow this lead as well.