Teamwork, or work is like a potluck


The AFT work team: not just publications and potlucks, but this year a Halloween zombie walk. How fun is that?

Today as I edited the story about high school football rivalry in the Urbana Town Courier (on the front page! I love small-town journalism), I noticed the little note at the top: “Lauren, please run the photo big! Thanks!”

I could never put this paper together by myself. But with writers, editors, a designer  and a publisher, we manage to do this thing. Every. Month. And every month I am kind of amazed. Look at this! We did it! Again!

It’s the same with other publications I edit and manage and for which I write. For the Takoma Park Newsletter, city staff makes it possible for me to not only list the latest yoga classes and the schedule for city council meetings and library readings, but also note the latest development news (did you know Busboys and Poets is opening next month?) or arts project (Docs in Progress has a local film fest on the calendar). My designer is a hilarious and fabulous person with a knack for email banter. And each month we come out with this thing – it’s like a small miracle, every time. Even when I contribute just one article to a publication, like the piece about Tilghman Island for Bethesda Magazine, I love that someone else frames it with great photographs and design.

The reality of my work is that this teamwork concept is mostly virtual – the bulk of my time is spent sitting alone at a desk, rearranging words on the screen, and answering emails.

That’s why when the collaborative aspect of my job ramps up it makes me a little giddy. This happened recently at the American Federation of Teachers, where I write and edit newsletters and web content for and about public school support staff (think teacher aides, bus drivers, custodians and lunch ladies). Now, along with putting together articles about how poverty affects our schools (hugely) or improving school lunch nutrition (more whole grains and fresh veggies!) I get to meet with a digital team to brainstorm creative ways to push our ideas far beyond print and onto the web, social media, speeches and events.

I sit at the table with these fast-thinking, creative, funny people and feel as though I’ve just landed in the accelerated class at school, after languishing in some on-line, solo course. Everyone is engaged, ideas beget ideas, and I leave feeling energized and inspired. Then there’s the rest of the department, from copy editors, writers and designers through admin and production, steeped in years of institutional loyalty and knowledge—it’s a great combination.

Plus this good group of folks will hold a potluck at the drop of a hat. Which is really just teamwork that tastes good. I’m already planning what I’ll bring to the next one.


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