“You are strong enough to soldier this storm.”

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Bridgeland Media staffers meet at a local coffee shop during spring break last week. With growing coronavirus concerns, the yearbook staff wanted to plan finishing the yearbook. The preemptive strategy paid off as the school district extended spring break an additional week. Photo by Samantha Berry

Adviser Samantha Berry manages her fear and staff during this unexpected time of cancellations and closures. Here’s her suggestions for keeping calm and staying connected to finish the book.

Berry is the journalism adviser at Bridgeland High School in Cypress, Texas. This is her 10th year advising.

I turned off the lights in my classroom on a Friday afternoon excited for a week of fun and rest ahead of me. The following Friday looked much different. In just a week, the world around us changed drastically. The feeling in my stomach felt like walking down a flight of stairs and missing a step—fearful and panicked.

Conventions canceled. Games. Rodeos. And then, our worst fear, school. And for how long? One only knows. And there is a heaviness that rests on us—the yearbook.

I see your fear and anxiety because I feel it too. Deep in my bones I feel the yearbook nightmares coming true. You know the ones—the completely irrational scenarios that wake us up in a cold sweat on a Thursday night for no reason.

I have good news for you. You are strong enough to soldier this storm. Your kids are faithful enough to you and your book to see it through. You are just the person they need to carry on to the finish line just on the other side of a raging river.

I feel this truth deeper in my bones than any fear about missed deadlines or delayed shipments.

Are we going to miss deadlines? Yes! Are shipments possibly delayed? Sure! But you’re not alone. Take a second to breathe and refocus. A delayed book is not the end of us. In the meantime, we have a unique opportunity to teach our students how to cover breaking news.

Mobilize quickly. Meet your students in this place of fear and help them turn that anxiety into fuel to move forward.

Some tips:

  • Set up a Zoom call with your staff immediately. Zoom has lifted the 40-minute limit for schools. You could chat for hours. Not that you will, but you could!! Start with a mental health check-in. Have them tell you where they’re at on a scale of 1-10 or sum up how they feel with one word or sound. Tell them (honestly) how you feel at that moment.
  • Create a schedule for yourself and encourage them to do the same. Refrain from sleeping in too late. I have decided I won’t turn the television on before 5 p.m. and I must eat breakfast every morning. And fix my hair! During the call, give them a template to do the same.
  • Have a list of duties and assign them. Instead of asking “Who can do this?” tell them “Hey, Grant, you are in charge of this. It’s your responsibility and others will help.” Give a deadline.
  • Use your resources! Neighborhood Facebook groups, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. are so useful.
  • Let some things go. Some captions might be missing quotes, and it will be okay. Your best is your best. No one is THE best because that level of perfection does not exist. Your best is more than enough.
  • Laugh and talk often. Group chats through apps like GroupMe or Band are great for keeping morale up. They miss you. You miss them. Stay engaged.

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Adviser Samantha Berry is using Zoom to chat and plan with her yearbook staffers.

Last thing to remember. Your rep loves you. Your fellow advisers love you. And most importantly, your students love you. In the end, the relationships and community we have are what matter the most. Focus on what we can teach in this tumultuous time and know that things always work out.

I should be returning to work after spring break. And guess what, I AM. Except it will be from my home desk in my leggings, comfiest sweater and complete control over the temperature while on Zoom calls with the teenagers who make my life better every single day. We soldier on, friends.

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