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Good – Better – Best: Colfax Middle School works on team building

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  “Good. Better. Best.”

“Never let it rest.”

“Until your good is better.”

“And your better is best.”

“Doing your best” was one of the themes Carl “Energizer” Olson emphasized during a presentation to Colfax Middle School students September 29.

Olson worked with the all of the middle school students in the morning in the Martin Anderson Gymnasium, and in the afternoon, he focused on the middle school student council members.

During the two-hour presentation, students played communication games in pairs, in groups, and in one large group, responded to verbal cues from Olson (“Hear the sound of my voice, clap once.”),  participated in a musical activity with “Sweet Caroline,” and were entertained by a variety of magic tricks.

All together, the Martin Anderson Gymnasium became a lively place filled with sound and activity.

According to Olson’s website, he is “a nationally known and respected speaker, trainer and author. He has presented to nearly three-quarters of a million people throughout the United States and Canada.”

Colfax middle school teacher Tim Devine described Olson as a “longtime friend” who used to work in the Barron school district.

Olson, now 71 years old, began “Energizer Olson” in 1993, drawing on his background as an educator, coach, administrator and leadership trainer.

Best

Everyone should always strive to “do their best,” Olson told the students.

“We always try to get better. We always try to improve … I want you to be your best,” he said.

Of course, one person’s best is not the same as someone else’s best.

“Your best is different than mine,” Olson said, noting that he wants students to be “their best” — and not “the best.”

In the same way that people tend to remember jingles from television or radio commercials, Olson said the students, by the time he had finished his presentation, would remember “the best” jingle.

“Good. Better. Best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better. And your better is best,” he reiterated.

Olson insisted on audience participation in learning the jingle. When he said, “Good. Better,” the students shouted “Best.” When he said “Never let it,” the students shouted “rest.” When he said, “Until your good is,” the students erupted with “better.” And when Olson said, “And your better is,” the youngsters responded with “Best!”

Olson also demonstrated the art of “teasing” with a student volunteer, and in a short while, all of the students were laughing, including the volunteer.

“Teasing is okay if both of you are in on it. But if only one of you is in on it, then it is bullying,” Olson said.

The word “bullying” was cause for pause.

The students seemed quite well aware that bullying is not acceptable behavior.

Communication

Olson worked on playing communicating games with the middle school students as well.

If students notice any their classmates having difficulty communicating or struggling to complete a task or to be included in activities or in a group, “pull them in,” Olson said.

Positive words will bring about change, he said.

“If you want changes, or you want your team to do better, use positive words,” Olson said

Changes in behavior come about when the ratio is five to one of positive comments to constructive criticism, he said.

Trust

Trust is an important issue as well, Olson said.

Olson demonstrated trust using a coffee cup, a string with a 2 ¼ inch washer tied to the end and a “magic wand.”

A student volunteer held the string, suspended over the magic wand (a stick), which was tied to the coffee cup and kept it from falling on the floor.

At the count of “three” the student was supposed to let go of the string.

As it turned out, the washer was heavy enough to wrap the string around the stick when the coffee cup started falling toward the floor — and the  coffee cup stopped short of hitting the floor.

Olson said he knew he could trust gravity to work in his favor with the washer and to keep the coffee cup from breaking.

The student volunteer also had to trust that he would not break the coffee cup by letting go of the string.

Olson suggested that the middle school teachers ask the students to make acronyms using the letters “t-r-u-s-t” and write a paragraph about the acronym.

Best effort

Students also must be prepared to give their best effort.

Olson said he always likes to arrive several hours early when he is doing a presentation to make sure he has everything set up correctly.

Prior to one presentation, Olson said he ended up in a traffic jam and arrived only five minutes before the presentation was ready to begin instead of the several hours he normally has to set up.

One of the activities involved opening the lock on a pouch containing a $10 bill. If a student is successful in opening the pouch with a key, he or she gets to keep the money.

Olson has three keys for the pouch, and students select the key they want to use. None of the students at Colfax could open the pouch with the key and were surprised when Olson told them all of the keys would open the pouch — as long as he had manipulated the lock in the right way.

At the presentation where he arrived only five minutes early, he was unable to set up the lock in the proper way, and the first student, a girl, was able to open it, and consequently, Olson presented her with the $10.

Olson said he was upset with himself for not being at the school early enough to set up properly.

After the presentation, Olson said he learned something very important about the girl. Her father was fighting in the Iraq war, and she had cried every day for months because she was afraid she would never see her dad again.

Opening the lock and getting the money “made her day,” he said.

The experience brought him up short.

“It is important to always be kind, to say hello,” Olson said.

“If you are going to be successful, you have to open yourself up. You have to fill yourself up to overflowing,” he said.

Several times, Olson stressed that the students must find out what they are good at and then focus on those activities.

“You have to focus to get better,” he said.

“Good. Better. — Best. Never let it — rest. Until your good is — better. And your better is — best,” Olson emphasized.

At the end of the program, Olson asked if the students had any questions.

One student wanted to know how long he had been doing the presentations.

The answer was — 22 years.

Another student wanted to know, “are you coming back to Colfax?”

Olson said he would love to come back to Colfax anytime he is invited and that he would be delighted to do an inservice for staff members as well.