Carl “Energizer” Olson likes to collect dots.
To the nationally known speaker, trainer and author, who has presented to more than 1.5 million people throughout the U.S. and Canada, each person he meets is a dot.
“Tonight is a dot for you,” he said while speaking at University of Wisconsin-Stout Wednesday, Nov. 14, as part of School Psychology Awareness Week, which ran from Nov. 12-16. “You want to have as many dots in life as you can. You never know when the dots will connect in life. Every person I meet expands my life.”
Olson, of Sun Prairie, is a UW-Stout alumnus with a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. He taught in the Chetek and New Richmond school districts and was an administrator in the Barron school district.
Learning happens in waves, Olson said, making the motion with his hands. School counselors must encourage students to find out what they are good at and strive to increase students’ confidence.
“You are going to be faced with teachers that will say a kid is no good,” Olson told the students attending the presentation.
Their job will be to keep working and working until good things happen for those children. “Never give up,” he added. “You can make a difference in someone’s life and make it work. It’s amazing stuff folks. I’m telling you you’re entering into one of the best jobs you’ll ever do in your life.
“It’s self-talk,” he added. “You have to believe in yourself. We’ve got to teach students to do that and believe in themselves.”
Mixing in magic tricks and sleight of hand, Olson, 73, said as an educator he used those tricks to provide mental breaks for students and also as ways to get them talking and sharing with each other.
One trick involved the use of iodine in water. Once stirred with a stick dipped in bleach, the iodine cleared up. At one point he had participants put a penny in a balloon, blow it up and spin the penny. He then had them put a metal nut into the same balloon and rotate it, creating a whirring noise. “Learning happens like this,” Olson said, noting most people don’t realize the piece of hardware would make that noise.
Olson started speaking to groups in 1993, drawing on his experiences as an educator. Some of his books include “Presenting and Training with Magic,” “Taking Time for Teamwork,” “The Leadership Cookbook,” “100 Awesome Icebreakers,” and “Entertaining an Elephant.”
He encouraged gratitude and taking the time to tell people who have made a difference in one’s life.
Jessica Boston, of Colby, a UW-Stout graduate student in school counseling, said she learned from Olson the importance of saying, “That’s interesting,” and encouraging students to tell them more. “I like all his ideas how we as future school counselors can connect with kids,” Boston said.
Molly Borman, of Ladysmith, a graduate student in school counseling, said Olson had great energy. “I loved it all,” she said. “He just keeps you involved.”
For Harly VanBrunt, of Durand, a graduate student in school counseling, Olson kept her engaged and listening. “I liked when he talked about how we are supposed to help build kids up and build their self-esteem,” she said. “That’s important.”
School Psychology Awareness Week’s theme was Unlock Potential. Find your Password. A password is a personal key for unlocking any number of areas of one’s potential. School psychologists assist students and staff in unlocking the resources, proactive and preventative skills and positive connections necessary to find their full potential to thrive in school and life.
UW-Stout’s Master of Science degree in school counseling has been ranked one of the top six programs in the nation by Top Counseling Schools.org and Best Counseling Degrees.net. The university also offers a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a Master of Science in applied psychology.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
UW-Stout graduate students Molly Borman, Harly VanBrunt and Jessica Boston laugh as they twirl a penny in an inflated balloon. All three agreed Olson was an engaging speaker with ideas how future counselors can connect with their students.
Olson, at right, with Borman, demonstrates how to work together to get yarn strings untangled. Olson uses magic and sleight of hand tricks to engage listeners and give them mental breaks.