Life After PowerPoint

I’m taking a course right now from ten to one every Saturday about animal assisted therapy at the local community college. As a literacy coach, I was interested in the topic after reading an article explaining how dogs assist struggling readers. The idea is to have a neutral environment while a child works out his or her  reading strategies and skills. Dogs can do that. So, I wanted to learn more about this animal assisted world. Now, to clarify, this course is not about learning how to train dogs to assist the blind, the handicapped or those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. This is about learning how animals are used in activities to help learning as in reading or visiting nursing homes, hospitals and the like.

As a matter of fact, the class visited a hospital last week and walked around with dogs and their handlers. It was a great experience to watch patients and the medical staff respond to these wonderful animals. The field trips are wonderful. It is those days when we are in class for three hours which I have learned to dread. Death by PowerPoint! Yes. PowerPoint for three hours with a little break in between. AND, the instructor reads the PowerPoint! It is sheer agony. I am reminded all over again how we as educators can destroy the enthusiasm to learn.


I cured myself of PowerPoint. How did I do it? I read a marvelous book entitled presentationzen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. I learned to use visual images in my  slides which I support in my oral presentation. As the author states, “Since when can an audience read and listen to someone talk at the same time?” The book teaches those of us who are teachers, trainers and keynote speakers how to understand and use visual communication.

I have a keynote coming up, and I am working out my visuals. Thank you Mr. Reynolds from saving me and my audience of 120 people from PowerPoint and the dark ages.

Differentiating the Coaching Needs of Teachers

I’ve been coaching in a charter school with 26  teachers in teams from kindergarten through fifth grade since September, 2012. The focus of my coaching has been best practices in teaching reading, writing, speaking and listening. The teams ranged in size from eight to four members. As a coach, I differentiated each session based on the issues presented by group. Sometimes I brought in resources that would meet the group’s needs. Sometimes I modeled lessons in one of the teachers’ classrooms while everyone observed. We would then debrief. Sometimes I planned individual sessions to address private school-related  concerns with which teachers were struggling.

Things were humming along until recently. That’s when the charter school learned their license was not going to be renewed. Shock all around. The politics of the non-renewal are beyond the scope of this blog.

I received my training as a coach with The Coaches Training Institute. They state that “the client’s wants and compelling desires are the topics” and that “the ongoing relationship between coach and client exists only to addres the client’s agenda.” And what was the agenda right after the shock in learning their jobs were only secure until the end of June? Of course, the obvious answer is they wanted to find another job. I couldn’t help them do that. Yet, what I could do was help them process their feelings, so they could think things through to find another job.

And that’s what I did. I used Fredrike Bannink’s book 1001 Solution-Focused Questions. Teachers selected partners. I turned to two sections of the book: 1. Questions for Clients in a Crisis Situation and 2. Questions for Increasing Hope. I selected a half-dozen questions and asked the teachers to process each one before I moved on to the next one. This visibly grounded the teachers. Before we began I had asked each teacher if zero were sheer panic and ten were a complete state of calmness, what number would they give themselves. No one was above a three, many at zero.  After processing the questions, everyone’s number moved up. Yes, they were now breathing!

As a literacy coach, I was again reminded what it means to differentiate the needs of the teachers we are coaching. Sometimes it’s not about the curriculum.

Attention Everyone!

There’s an underlying issue that often emerges after spouses give up trying to convince me who is “right” or “wrong” in a conflict: “I don’t feel I’m getting enough attention!” Most often this is voiced by the more process-oriented female. But many men offer their own “manly” version. Why is this so common among today’s couples? Perhaps it’s work or financial pressures or children’s needs or obsession with the internet or simply bad habits. A solution: intentional undistracted couple’s time on a regular basis. Even with pressures, this can be accomplished if the motivation is strong enough. Couples researcher, John Gottman, puts forth the “three-hour rule” as the minimum time partners need to focus positively on each other every week. To highlight this simple but elusive concept, I use the relationship metaphor of a spectacularly beautiful flowering plant in front of the couple’s house. It often gets admired in passing, but nobody takes the time to give it water. At one point its beauty starts to fade. One day it starts to droop. And one day it’s beyond salvation. My work with couples aims to make sure that day doesn’t arrive.

Welcome to Our New Website

Welcome to our new website. This blog will offer practical ideas for people to build their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. For those of you who would like to transform old behaviors blocking new goals, we offer coaching, counseling and the use of physical movement to clear out what is no longer working. Our goal is to provide services and resources that are useful.

So let’s start with some important questions. What are you dreaming? What are you wishing you would like to accomplish in your personal lives and your work lives? Please join us in finding answers to your questions.

Movement and Learning: A Partnering Relationship

Spectrum Podcasts’ Jane Bluestein, Ph.D., Instructional Support Services, Inc., interviews Aili Pogust on Movement and Learning: A Partnering Relationship.
Recorded December 27, 2011


Notes, Tips, Comments, and Resources