• Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
    Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
    by David Allen
  • Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction
    Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction
    by Robert F. Mager
  • The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior
    The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior
    by Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart

    This book includes super helpful graphs describing 56 common dog breeds in terms of 13 traits, including playfulness.

  • Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
    Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
    by Carol Lea Benjamin

    My favorite book on dog training.

Thoughts on instructional design, my dog, and life


Training Cientos for Conformation

Not long after I started training Cientos in obedience, I asked my breeder if I could show him in conformation. He was so gorgeous when he ran I thought he deserved a Ch. before his name, as well as a UD after it.

Cientos winning his Championship

 Being a training person, though, I wanted to “train” Cientos for the conformation ring, despite the conventional wisdom that training a dog in any way, and especially for obedience, ruined him for the conformation ring. “Obedience dogs don’t do well in the show ring, they sit when you stop!” went the complaint.

If you’re familiar with obedience competition, you know your dog stays on your left, and, among other things, sits automatically when you stop moving. And the best obedience dogs keep their eyes on you, the handler. In the conformation ring, the dog is sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right, never sits, and looks ahead.

No problem, I thought, I’ll just develop a separate set of commands. Instead of HEEL, I used STRUT in the conformation ring. I used STAND for both rings, because I liked the idea of Cientos standing like he owned the ring in either ring.

I also used commands when grooming him, rather than doing the work myself of shifting him from one side to the other, or getting him on and off the grooming table.

Cientos got his championship, and though nobody admitted they could be wrong about mixing obedience and conformation, the handlers and groomers commented on how wonderful Cientos was to work with, easy and responsive.

Don’t be afraid to buck the system, but buck thoughtfully.


Endless Rewriting

You may have noticed I haven’t published a new post in a while. What happened?

I was writing a blog post on how to adopt an orchid plant. I researched, rewrote, researched, rewrote. Weeks, then months, went by without publishing anything. Recriminations abounded. Blog posts are supposed to be more frequent and less time consuming.

I was stuck.

Here it is over two years later and I’ve picked up my blogging notebook. Reading over the last draft of the orchid article, I’m struck by how much work I put into it, and how much better it is than how my memory branded it.

What have I learned from this experience?

  1. Pay attention to that small quiet voice that tells you you’re stuck.
  2. When you’re stuck, force yourself to set the piece aside.
    That other voice, the one that urges you to check just one more thing, isn’t a friend. You can’t climb out of the hole. Instead, transport yourself to another place for a while. When you come back, the hole is much shallower, maybe even astonishingly so.

Tasks for Dobby the House-Elf

What would you do if you had a house-elf (as in from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels)?

I recently fantasized about what I would have Dobby do, if he served my family:


  • Clean the kitchen after each meal
  • Help with Spring and Fall cleanings
  • Stay on top the Year-Round Maintenance Chart of home maintenance tasks
  • Package the Christmas gifts and get them shipped so they arrive by Christmas day
  • Get us great seats at the ballet (I guess he’d have to have access to our gold for that, hmm)
  • Find the best flight or other transportation to Sedona for Thanksgiving, and stay on top of deals that we could take advantage of
  • Pick up library books as they come in and return the ones we’re done with
  • Fill the gas tank and keep the car clean inside and out
  • Take the car to the repair shop and pick it up when it’s ready
  • Do the laundry and, especially, put away the clean clothes, towels, sheets, etc.
  • Change the bedclothes every couple of weeks and keep the linen closet tidy and organized (with the linen folded per the Marie Kondo method)
  • Help me sort and purge file folders, and use his magic to rearrange the heavy furniture in my office
  • Magically organize all my folders and distribute them evenly among my filing cabinets (per David Allen’s recommendation)
  • Magically sense the folders I haven’t touched in over a year so I can purge them
  • Magically transport archive stuff neatly to the attic
  • Flush and clean my fountain pens when they run out of ink
  • Keep the Dremel (for the dogs’s toenails) in good working order
  • Keep the cobwebs away in the garage and at the front entrance
  • Replace blown light bulbs as soon as they go out
  • Keep the gutters clean
  • Organize the arborist to come every year and take care of our trees
  • Keep our shoes clean, in good repair, and polished
  • Package and sell eBay stuff that no longer serves me


Plenty of work to keep Dobby happy!

What would you have a house-elf do? Would you have a Winky, a Dobby, a Kreacher?


Getting Unstuck

Mager's The Performance SystemWhen I look at the tasks I brainstormed while writing about enticing teenagers, I feel stuck. That’s when I reach for the instructional design job aids I keep in my planner: Mager’s The Performance System, and Practical Management’s Design Sequence. Design Sequence job aid

Now, I can start to extract order from chaos. My list goes from this:

  • How do you make a class on managing your money exciting to a teenager?
  • Change the course name
  • Consider a window shopping field trip
  • Make sure students have money and some sort of bank account
  • Break down main learning objectives/draw skills hierarchy
  • Fill out a final student performance worksheet

To this:

Brainstormed List Organized List
How do you make a class on managing your money exciting to such a teenager? Determine/test relevance
i.e., analysis: target population
Change the course name Experiment/test course name
i.e., design/development: try out/revise
Consider a window shopping field trip Get as close to real life tasks as possible
i.e., analysis: task
Make sure students have money and some sort of bank account Determine prerequisites
i.e., design/development: describe learning environment
Break down main learning objectives/draw skills hierarchy Determine learning objectives
i.e., design/development: derive instructional outcomes

Draft skills hierarchy
i.e., analysis: task

Fill out a final student performance worksheet Complete Final Student Performance worksheet
i.e., analysis: performance, content

From this, I can tell that my next actions should be:

  1. Do a target population analysis
  2. Do a task analysis
  3. Draft a skills hierarchy
  4. Do performance & content analyses, document on Final Student Performance worksheet
  5. Derive instructional outcomes
  6. Describe the learning environment
  7. Try out/revise the course name

(That is, analysis tasks, then design tasks, then development tasks, etc.)

Of course, I’ve found that committing to more than about three tasks doesn’t make sense because so many things change in the course of time and/or completing the earlier tasks, but at least having gone through this process, I feel confident I’m working on the best three tasks.


Volunteer Résumé Entry

The Nutcracker rehearsal

I recently took a résumé writing workshop (always learning) and, since I was working with Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre on their production of The Nutcracker, I thought it would be interesting to write up my experience in the form of a résumé entry. It comes out like this:


Boys’s Dresser, 2015
Ensured male dancers ages 11–25 and with experience levels from first Nutcracker to professional dancer, were in stage costume, hair, and makeup by cue time. Facilitated quick costume changes. Maintained performance atmosphere in dressing room.

Mother Ginger, 2013, 2014
Performed role of Mother Ginger on stage in all five performances. Worked with approx. 10 children in two casts. Researched drag queen makeup, and worked with MAC makeup artist to learn how to apply. Documented performance kit and makeup application.

Party Mom, 2010, 2011, 2012
Performed role of Party Parent on stage in all five performances. Researched Victorian era hair style and jewelry. Worked with MAC makeup artist to learn appropriate stage makeup application. Researched character acting. Documented performance kit, putting up hair, and applying makeup.

Cuer, 2009
Ensured performers in wings on both sides of stage in costume, hair, & makeup to specifications, in time to go on stage on cue and unflustered, over course of 2.5-hr performance. Created job aid documenting who should be where and when (with approximate music time signatures), and what to check on the costumes. Job aid later presented to SCBT Board of Directors.Nutcracker cuing job aid

Girls’s Dresser, 2008
Ensured dancers ages nine–13 in stage costume, hair, & makeup before cue time. Researched best tools to create period-accurate ringlets. Created costume checklist.

It’s a fun exercise. (Imagine what a dancer's entry would look like!) Give it a try and let me know what you think.