For the past few years, I’ve volunteered at my kids’ schools in various ways. I’ve read to their classes, participated in career days, and helped the PTO with fundraising programs. Although these activities were fun, they didn’t require much of my time.
Now that I work at home, I have more time to volunteer and I’ve decided to be the Year Book Dad at my daughter’s middle school.
In college, I served on the year book staff as the Editorial Director. It was my job to assign and write articles, edit the copy, and come up with clever headlines. I liked the gig because it gave me the opportunity to meet new people and improve my communication and leadership skills (I managed a staff of 6 writers). My girlfriend’s being the Managing Editor was an added benefit (I liked it so I put a ring on it).
I also appreciated the new skills that I learned such as graphic design, publication layout, photography, teamwork, and conflict resolution (conflict occurs quite often when over-caffeinated college students are packed in a tiny office and faced with looming deadlines).
Although that year book wasn’t perfect, I was eager to share my work and college memories with my 12-year old daughter. That book is like a time capsule of my personal history. My daughter likes to laugh at the clothes and hairstyles. But her favorite thing to do is read the articles I wrote because they give her some insight into my 20-something self. For example, I wrote a story about “Beavis and Butthead” titled “This Story Sucks” and another about skipping class in favor of hanging out on The Yard.
All of these things influenced my daughter to follow in my footsteps and work on her school’s year book. But she was a little nervous. Applying for the class was a highly competitive process. Not only did she have to complete a detailed application, but she also had to submit an essay.
My daughter writes posts on this website and takes all of the photos that I have to be in. I told her that these are valuable skills and listing them would make her package stand out. She took my advice and was selected.
I gave my daughter a couple of weeks to settle into her school routine before I let her know that I was considering being the year book dad. I thought that she’d be embarrassed to have me in her class so often (she is a middle-schooler after all). To my surprise, she was actually happy that I would be helping her class.
However, her teacher was the happiest of all. When I told her about my background and my interest in helping, she thanked me profusely.
During my first visit to the class, I taught the kids a few technical things about using cameras – ISO, shutter speed, composition, etc. But I spent the bulk of the hour, challenging them to be creative and take risks.
“How many of you consider yourselves to be photographers?” I asked. Only two kids raised their hands.
“How many of you have camera phones and take photos daily?” Nearly every hand went up.
“You’re all photographers,” I said. “Own it.” The kids started to smile and sit a little taller in their seats.
I encouraged them to find the beauty in the mundane moments of middle school and to discover the things that make their school special and unique.
Over the course of the school year, I will help them to design visually appealing layouts, write captions, and edit photos. But most of all, I want to help them to create something tangible that they can be proud to share with their children.