Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

 I deeply apologize to all of those who have read this blog and found my thoughts to be of some value in improving your teaching skills. It is all wrong. My kind of teacher is being eliminated. The teacher in today’s classroom must stifle creativity and be in a constant control of the “adventure.” The student will not be allowed to lead this adventure. Successful teachers in today’s classrooms must instruct their students to take a test successfully.

 Today’s teacher is expected to teach a student how to take a standardized test. All else is now secondary. Creativity, thinking, challenging, questioning – these are a few of those important aspects that a pupil needs to become a student. A pupil repeats the facts and dates and follows the textbook information. The student assimilates facts into a sphere of knowledge. Today’s concept of a scholar is one who can “perform” on a standardized test. The powers-to-be in education today are less interested in learning them they are in training. The teacher in today’s classroom is expected to “train” their pupils to choose a “correct” answer when given a choice of four.

  As a science teacher I expected my students to question the facts. I used reading as a tool to learning. I encourage my students to challenge the facts. Today’s science teacher is a reading teacher. The value of the teacher (evaluation) is now being tied to a student’s success on a standardized test. Successful teachers are those that produce students who do well on standardized tests. The fallacy of standardized testing is grown out of this concept of accountability.

 I am one of those students who never did well on standardized tests. In fact, my test scores were so poor that I should never have considered going to college. My test score indicated that I would be a successful dishwasher! I did want to college. I did get a masters degree in biology. I did work as a naturalist for several years. I did go on to become an extremely successful high school teacher. I even went on to teach on the college level. I even offered workshops to other teachers on how to teach. I never learned to wash dishes. Ty wife demanded on a machine dishwasher. My wife was a wise person.

 One year I taught a class of students who were, in the politically correct words, language challenged. They were mostly students who had fled their country (Palestine) in order to seek protection in this country. I had 37 students in the class. After a month or two, I decided to check on their test results from the previous year. By this time I had become to know the abilities of the students rather than the numbers limiting the student. This was an eighth-grade class and they were performing at the fourth grade level. I knew from work we did in class that their work was better than what the test results showed. These students took that year’s test in April and showed an average increase of 2.5 years. I became the hero of the school. I was given credit for improving the students test scores by over twice what was expected. I received accolades and recognition all over the place. I was a fraud and I expressed that every chance I had. My students were always smart and it just happened that I was there teacher when they developed a grass on the English language. They did this all by themselves. I had very little to do with it. They learned from experiences of interacting with other students. This is how distorted standardized tests are.

 The present movement to tie the quality of teaching to the quantity of the test results is in the use of the concept of accountability. Imagine a physician whose quality of being a doctor is measured by how well his patients do on blood tests. There are so many factors that are out of the control of a doctor there would be considered totally and completely unfair to base the abilities of this doctor on those tests. Uses standardized test results is as unfair as using the blood tests

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September 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm Leave a comment

Class Size

Ready to Fill

If anybody wants to know about class size, they should talk to an experienced classroom teacher. Teachers in the classrooms will tell you that the number of pupils in a classroom has a distinct effect upon the teacher’s ability to provide adequate experiences for all students. Student achievement is directly related to the number of students in the classroom. This is supported by the majority of reliable studies conducted by a variety of organizations.

As a classroom teacher, probably like many other classroom teachers, I have had the experience of dealing with as many as 42 students and as few as 7 students. I am sure there are teachers who have had more than 42 students and some who have had fewer than 7. The US Department of Education claims that the average class size is 25 students per class. His school day might have 300 min. of actual instructional time. The other time is devoted to lunch, bathroom breaks or non-instructional events. Therefore in an elementary level classroom of 25 students over 300 min., the teacher has 12 min. per student in the course of the day. And a high school class or a departmentalized grade school class with 15 min. segments allows only 2 min. per student. Decreasing or increasing class size has an impact on teacher/pupil interaction time.

Teachers use nonverbal communication to interact with individual students without disrupting an entire classroom. Eye contact, physical nearness and body language are some of the means that teachers can use to communicate with students. Good teachers communicate with the students with a raised eyebrow, rolled eye, a shrug, or moving to stand near a student. As a result classroom activities are not disrupted by a single student. Some students demand attention. The students can often disrupt activities in the classroom. Being able to identify an attention seeking outbreak early, the teacher will be able to avoid the situation with the nonverbal communication. Increasing class sizes create situations in which attention seeking students evade the teacher’s watchful eye.

The present economic situation has led to decreases in school budgets, greater demands on teachers and increased pressure on school districts to perform. Politicians, legislators and parents have joined to criticize pupils, teachers and schools. Reducing state spending has been at the expense of quality education. Funding to school districts has been cut causing the local school district to fire teachers and reduce programs. The result has been to increase class size. Some school districts determine the number of teachers allowed in a school by dividing the school population by the number of students permitted per class. For example, if the school board’s class size policy is 30 students per class and the school population is 900 students then the school should have 30 teachers. That sounds reasonable. The problem in some school districts is that no allowance is made for special needs classes. State law often mandates the size special need classes. For example, students with learning disabilities are limited to 12 students in a class. Students with severe physical disabilities are limited to 5 per class. Depending upon the number of special-needs classes in a school, the class-size may be above the expected 30 per class.

Look at me... Look at me

Class size is a component that contributes to good schools. When school budgets are reduced for whatever reason it often results in an increase in the number of students in the class. The resulting effects often influence test scores and abilities of teachers to achieve the goals that have been established within the school. The result is to provide the appearance of a great decline in education, the schools taxpayers who fund and the teachers that have been hired. This becomes the political fodder of future campaigns. Teachers, schools and educational funding are easy targets for those with a different philosophy of education. Politicians and too many parents view teachers as overpaid and under worked. They point to the schools as failures. They see education funding as a poor investment. Schools, teachers and educational funding become the targets of the “Balance the Budget” propagandists. It is not difficult to convince an electorate who agrees with the thought that teachers do not do their job and schools are not doing their job as daycare providers. The invariable result of this thinking and the resulting actions is that some of the best young teachers decide to move on to other professions. Prospective teachers in the universities decide not to major in education. And experienced teachers with too much invested in a school system are left behind to deal with increased class sizes, decreased budgets and their efforts left unappreciated .

School reform is a plank in every politicians platform. Failure to address the issue of class size will only result in poorer schools and less motivated teachers and a never-ending cycle of failure. If politicians truly wish to improve education they should include a sliver of reduced class size. I have found – my own experience – the ideal class size ranges between 16 and 20. There are classes that need to be smaller but generally speaking a class below 20 provides the opportunity for teachers to work at their optimum. Students benefit from good teachers working in a school environment that encourages learning.

September 13, 2011 at 12:16 am Leave a comment

The Test

Beginning teachers, and some veterans, look back at the start of a new school year amazed at how quiet and orderly the class gad been. What happened? Simple! The teacher failed The Test. The test of who is in control. It is subtle and subversive. It is not a planned test- it just happens. The unwary teacher may not even be aware of it. It unfolds from the very moment the first pupils appear at the classroom door.

All teachers face this test each time a new group of learners arrive at the classroom door. The operative word here is “learners.” There are no adjectives, such as, potential, eager, dismayed, prospective, etc. Only the word learner is shown. Every child who walks through the door of the classroom is a learner. They will learn. It may not be what you want them to learn but they will learn. How effective a teacher is in getting them to learn what is expected is determined by the test.

In the previous post, it was stated that preparation is the stratagem for success. In order for this plan to work, it is necessary to have the appropriate tactics. These are your behavioral management skills. The battle for control of maintaining these particular skills is the subject of the test. The best laid plans of mice or men are useless without the power to put the plan into operation.

As the new pupils sit quietly hanging upon each word that is uttered or each activity engaged in, the test is in progress. A student speaks out. This may seem good but do should that pupil have raised their hand or not? To pass the test, identify the behavior and indicate the way it should be done in this classroom: “Thank you, Harry for supplying the answer but we need to raise our hands. Mary breaks her pencil point and quietly gets out of her seat to sharpen her pencil. “Mary, I see you broke your pencil and needs sharpening. But, in the future, Could you raise the pen and point so I know everything is ok.”  All of this constitutes a test. It is not a concerted affair but rather a series of events that is best identified by the teacher. If Harry can speak out, then Larry can shout out. The teacher must have made a decision about what is acceptable before it happens. It is in these first few days and weeks that the teacher creates the atmosphere that is part of the overall plan.

Explicit versus implicit curriculum. The explicit is all the nicely and painstakingly prepared. The implicit is the milieu in which it all happens.  The stage must be set before the play is performed.

How does a teacher pass the test? Like everything else in teaching, anticipate and plan. College teacher-preparation classes emphasize the word plan: plan the lesson, plan the curriculum, plan the holidays, plan the field trips, plan the testing activities, plan the potty trips, plan the party. Plan, plan, plan…. The previous post stressed the need to be prepared for the first day. To pass the test the teacher must have a plan of the overall behavioral management plan.

Review the behavioral classroom management plan each year. What is expected of the student in terms of their behavior? Raise hand? Freely leave seat? Noisily entering classroom? Talking to neighbors? Chewing gum or candy? Cell phones? Make a list. Expand each year. It is part of the overall plan.

The test is strongest in the first week or two. Vigilance and fairness are the keywords in putting the plan into operation. The overwhelming measure of a good teacher from the pupil viewpoint is fairness. What’s good for Larry better be good for Mary. If Harry is told not to talk out of turn and Barry has to be reminded as well. It important to be very cognizant of what is happening in the classroom. Omnipotent is the teacher attribute to exhibit these first few weeks.

How the teacher is perceived early on is vital to the effectiveness in accomplishing lessons later in the year. Children learn. It may not be what we intend them to learn  but they will learn something. The implicit teaching actions often have a greater impact on learning than what is given credit. Learning by example is the most effective approach to classroom activities. The teacher creates this world for children to learn in by example through behavioral management skills.

It’s the first day! Eyes open! Ears alert! Face friendly but businesslike! Mind set to the classroom as a place of learning! Watch for any activities that would make a good example of what or what not to do. Give them candy or a scowl. Establish the rules of this classroom. These are the days that may well result in a great learning experience for pupils and teacher the rest of a person’s life.

August 13, 2010 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

Start the Year: It’s Only the First Day!

The first day of class is the most important day of the school year. You will have the greatest attention your students. Take advantage while you can. A good essay begins with a preview of what is to come. Start off with the most important things. Before you begin your first day, have your classroom ready. Desk alignment and necessary materials available and ready. Seating charts are important. The idea is to demonstrate that you are in command.

Before you begin this day, there are some things that need to be done. Consider the school’s overall goals, objectives, outcomes or standards. How does your class expectations fit into that projection. This is what needs to be addressed on day one. Your student will be a different person when they finish your class. The first day should project what your last day will be.  Show them what you expect of them. Start off with the most important things.

In order to achieve that end, there has to be a theater to provide an opportunity to learn. Like any theater there are rules to follow for everyone’s benefit. Classroom rules provide this environment. Have a poster that clearly offers your classroom rules. There are a variety of classroom management formats. Whatever plan you decide to follow, rules are usually a part of it. Remember KISS! The simpler the better.

Years ago a great workshop I attended helped me immensely: Lee Canter’s Assertive Disciple. Over time I modified some of the aspects but the general concepts have become a beacon for me to follow. He suggested no more than five rules. The last rule -Let’s call it Rule 5- is always: “Do what you are asked to do the first time.” It is a catch-all. If you ask a student to sit down and he/she fails to do so, they have broken a rule. If you ask them to stop talking and they fail to do so, they broke a rule. It covers all those nitty-gritty details of daily life.

What you chose as your rules need to be carefully considered. These are rules need to be enforceable, clear and important. (Remember Rule 5 covers all the minor details). My rules were:

  • You must be in your seat with requested materials (see board) on desk when class bell rings.
  • You are expected to have all the classroom materials as listed on first day handout.
  • Assigned class work (home work, library research, lab reports, etc) is due on day assigned.
  • You can expect to be treated fairly but you are expected to treat others fairly.
  • Do what you are asked to do the first time

First day handouts are vital in today’s world of “The teacher did” attitude. Teachers seem to be the blame for school systems going bankrupt, student’s not being motivated and low ability students failing high ability tests. Without a handout to list classroom supplies needed, homework policy and classroom rules, the teacher is susceptible to such statements as:

“I didn’t know!”

“You never told us!”

“My daughter never has homework!”

“You never told me that my kids needed pencils!”

“My daughter says you’re a dumb teacher!”

You may be accused of these things anyway but if you have it written down it helps when the administration is too willing to accept the pupil or kid’s word over yours. It might be a good idea to have a tear-off at the bottom to be signed by the parent and returned.

Other things for the first day that might be included:

  • Assign seats. (Do quickly and without fuss. I used to put cards on desk or a textbook with their name. Time consuming but helps with first day order).
  • Begin a learning lesson
  • Distribute texts
  • Have students write or draw something
    • I used to have them write a letter to themselves in May or next year. Amidst the moans ands groans, I pointed out that I expected them to be a different person nine months from now. The moans of August become smiles and tears in May.
  • Ice breakers to get kids to interact (Be careful, these can get out-of-hand. Your first day needs to establish order! I used to use these on second day)
  • Many kids are very excited about starting school, don’t leave them down.

Any movement exercises need to be planned carefully. Organization and no-nonsense need to be the projected to the pupils. The teacher is in command. Beware of falling into a trap that requires you to raise your voice or appear hassled. Watch the clock! Remember that attention levels are high but short! Keep your activities moving along. Avoid getting bogged down on one thing. There is always tomorrow. You got off to a good start. Now be sure to finish in style. Do not let the bell control your students. Before the end of class, take a few seconds or minute to thank you pupils and bid them farewell.

Go Home and have a nice glass of wine as you revise your lesson plan.. But smile there is only so long till a break!

August 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

Thoughts on Being a Teacher

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If test scores are the measure of a teacher’s quality, then I am a great failure. The students that I have taught in the past 15 years did not score well on ACT’s or ISAT’s. They probably left high school to get married or go to work in some menial job. A few will go to a community college to become trained in a trade of some sort. I feel I had as much a positive impact on these “kids” as I did with the super brains that I taught my first 15 years. The early years I guided young people to aspire to be doctors, lawyers and business owners. In my latter years, I helped young people become patients, clients and employees. I hope that I steered each group to discover something of themselves and be tolerant of the something in others. I hope that I offered an example of being a learner for life. What you do is not so important as how you do i

This is what makes a good teacher. Test scores are diagnostic tools to help teachers and administrators design ways of improving a child’s education. Every child is an individual. To apply test scores as a blanket to cover all students is ludicrous. Children not only learn differently but at different rates. This is not an earth-shattering concept. Parents take their babies to the doctor. The baby is weighed and measured. Some babies are shorter than others. As the doctors tell these parents, it is okay some babies are shorter than others. They may catch up later, they may not. Test scores are a measure too. Some kids may catch up later, some may not. That’s life. It does not mean you are deficient or abnormal. You are a part of the range. If the doctor notices no improvement over time, diagnostic tests might be in order. How does education handle this?

Education designs school improvement programs. Politicians, local school boards and administrators incorporate these into the schools. It often takes years for new programs to installed in school systems. Change in education has been traditional slow. As frustrating as this can be, it often proves a good filtering system. Beneficial alterations survive the quick fix excitement. Consider the following partial list of programs:

  • Behavior objectives
  • Programed learning
  • Learning packets
  • Self paced learning
  • Barrier-less schools
  • Big schools
  • Little schools
  • Little schools in big schools
  • School Improvement plans (SIP’s)
  • Outcome-based learning
  • Standards
  • Integrated learning
  • Hands-on
  • Constructivism
  • Piaget
  • NCLB

Education is always searching for improvements and new approaches. This is a good thing. Education has never been stagnant. It is dynamic and evolving. Good teachers are able to adapt to these demands. Good teachers will always create a classroom filled with opportunities to learn. Good teachers recognize that students have different learning styles. Like these learning styles, teachers have a variety of teaching styles. There is nothing wrong with this. The driving question in education is what makes a certain teacher so great? Its his or her style. It’s the climate they establish within their classroom. Teachers are not robots. They relate to their students and motivate them. They offer a path with a light to seek. The means of achieving that end might be wildly different for each student but the good teacher is able to encourage and lead his or her students.

I come from Chicago area. Like so many large cities and small, the news media feeds us a daily diet of death, beatings and violence. I see innocent children shot or beaten and I feel pain. I see the violent beating of a high school student with a crowd watching and wonder why. I read of a young girl raped with a crowd of voyeurs cheering the events. Someone points to the schools as a the source of the problem or the means of the solution. Schools have always been the natural place to solve society’s problems. Nuclear bomb drills, immunization requirements, school breakfasts, free lunches, buses to integrate, driver education, good health, test scores: These all had a basis in a need to try to improve a social issue. In most cases, the programs were underfunded or vaguely designed. Measuring the impact of these programs are unclear. There are still sick children who are hungry. There are still segregated neighborhoods and poverty. There are bad drivers and obese youngsters. We still do these in hopes that they will have some impact. We will create other programs in the future to solve other issues. There is nothing wrong with attempting to improve life. The press, politicians and public need to realize that schools are doing the best that they can.

I am retired now and I miss the interaction in the classroom. I miss the challenge. I miss the banter of learning. I have been fortunate to have touched so many lives. I have roller-coasted from one end of the bell to the other. It has been a great trip. What I have discovered over all those years is that its not the test scores or the honors or trophies or ribbons: it’s the light in a child’s face when they finally get it. It’s the smile a kids shares with his classmate. It’s the voice of a student who once stood silent. It is great to have been a teacher!

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November 9, 2009 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

April

 

spring path

Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

This Month’s look for New Beginnings and lots of laughs (it is good for your health!)

Teacher Trash Talk

Spring Break has either just finished or will begin soon. Spring has stirred some restlessness in pupils. As the sun warms the day and the buds appear on many shrubs, thoughts of summer and the break from the classroom routine settles into both to pupils and teachers alike. Many schools administer some type of standardized testing or state testing during April. As much as many pupils seem to slough off the idea of testing, the stress of doing well or not doing poorly is a big factor.

Testing is worth a few words. Brighter pupils strive to do well. These highly motivated individuals stress themselves in their drive to do well. It is what makes them better students rather than just pupils. On the other hand, pupils who struggle with academics often cringe at the thought of testing of any kind. Older pupils see standardized tests as just another means of confirming their view of themselves- “I am dumb!”

The teacher needs to develop strategies to help their students and pupils cope with standardized testing. In far too many schools, specific time is expected to be spend teaching pupils to “take the test.” Administrators, politicians and anyone directly not involved with your pupils will push you to stress the importance of this testing to the school’s image, the state’s requirements, the value of real estate and the evaluation of the teacher. Oh Yes! Pupils will get something out it!

Opps! Sorry! I don’t want to get on my soapbox. It is pretty clear where I stand on standardized testing that is used for non-diagnostic purposes.

It’s spring! The flowers are pushing through the soil and the buds on the trees are bursting open. It is a time to feel good! Smile and be happy.

Among a wealth of great events for April are:

The 4th is School Librarian Day. Thank a librarian. Go to the library. Pupils should have a library card.
The 7th is No Homework Day. (See my upcoming post on Homework!)

Magnificent Social Studies Adventures
Presidential Birthdays:
<> Thomas Jefferson (April 13)
<> James Buchanan (April 23)
<> Ulysses S Grant (April 27)
<> James Monroe (April 28)

Great Science Investigations
<> Famous Apollo 13 mission occurred in 1970
<> Great tale of space exploration
<> Humans travel to Mars
<> Walk on Moon
<> Laws of motion
<> Gravity

<> Plant studies
<> Seed germination
<> Planting the home garden
<><> ® Could your school provide a small patch for a garden?

Monthly Math
<> Apollo 13 provides ample opportunity to discuss
<> Angles and prediction
<> Trigonometry
<> Effects of forces

Language Arts
<> April 23 William Shakespeare was born in1564.
<> He died on the same day, 52 years later, in 1616
<> Historical Fiction
<> Writing poems

Fine Arts
<> Still life
<> flowers

Physical Education
<> Get outside!!
<> Baseball rules

 

Explore the Web:

http://www.openeducation.net/
Great sight for articles about teaching. Not a resource.
http://scout.wisc.edu/About/subscribe.php
The Scout Report (Publication of the Internet Scout Project)
Sponsored by University of Wisconsin
Great site. Subscribe to weekly email. Lists of fantastic sites of interest.

March 30, 2009 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

March

multiculturism

Quote of Month:
Richard M. Nixon: “Always remember others may hate you but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”
This Month’s Theme: Spring and Diversity
Teacher Trash Talk:

Spring is always a great time. Fresh air and warm days! The sun is noticeably warmer. The spirit seems to be lifted. The gloom of January and February get blown away by the winds of March. The winds are the result of increased heating over cooler surfaces. “You gotta take the batter with the gooder!” Spring is in March or Awaits very soon in April. Many teachers look to travel during spring break! It is a great time!

The good side always has to have a tails side. With the first warm breezes of Spring comes the dreams of vacation, summer, warm days, picnics, and all those other things that usually offsets the hard work of school work. It’s “spring fever.” Teachers and students suffer.

It’s a good time to remember the basic rule of good teaching: Relevancy! Incorporate the conditions to your favor. Outdoor activities, such as collecting weather data, preparing a garden patch or even helping pick up the school campus area, are good reasons to take the pupils outside. Use what you do outside to incorporate what you do inside. Use weather data to make weather predictions. Create maps of garden patches or even the school campus. Organize into groups to do projects. Competition can have negative results but friendly competition is a good learning experience. Life is completive.
This Month’s Events

1-Congress authorized the creation of Yellow stone National Park, 1872

3-Star Spangled Banner adopted as National Anthem of the United States, 1931

5-The Boston Massacre took place, 1770

7-Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for his telephone, 1876

11-Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone call, 1876

14-Physicist Albert Einstein was born in Ulf, Germany, 1879

15-Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of nobles that included Brutus and Cassis, 44 B.C.

15-President Andrew Jackson was born, 1767

16-President James Madison was born, 1751

17-So Trick’s Day

18-President Grover Cleveland was born, 1837

27-First long distance telephone call made from Boston to New York, 1884

29-President John Tyler was born, 1790
Magnificent Social Studies Adventures

§ Reports on Presidents

§ Effects of The Telephone on Society

§ The Boston Massacre

§ The Star Span gel Banner

§ Julius Caesar

§ Conservation of natural resources (Yellow stone was established in 1872)

§ Society is a diverse mixture of cultures and peoples. (Everyone is Irish on So Pat’s Day)!
Great Science Investigations

§ Spring = Vernal Equinox

§ The “Tin Can” Telephone

§ E=mace

§ New ton’s Law of Motion

§ Weather projects are good (Wind measurement)
Monthly Math
§ Solving Equations

§ Einstein who corrected New ton’s work was born in 1879 and Newton died this month 1n 1727
Language Arts
§ “My Fair Lady” opened on stage in 1956 based on George Barnard Shaw’s Pygmalion

§ Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in 1806

§ Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter published in 1850
Fine Arts

§ Broadway musicals My Fair Lady and Oklahoma opened

§ Johanna Sebastian Bach born in 1685

§ Art Project: Create own Monster (King Kong opened in 1933)

§ Create a kite to fly
Do you know… That each of us has an ancestry that becomes closer to each other as we trace our heritage back? It is amazing to discover who are related to as the doors of genetic roots are explored. (Make up a family tree that relates to people that you admire In history.)
Questions That hunt Answers: Who are You? Who am I? (Communication is a key to social relations. Part of a curriculum must address the social skills. Tolerance and acceptance comes with understanding which depends upon communication. Use the two questions of the month to have students randomly talk (diad) and interview each other. As pupils age, it is more difficult to talk about yourself. Begin with an activity that make them create an ancestry. I am… Ford, Dodge, Toyota, etc.. Or I am an tiger, snail, jellyfish.. It’s spring so make it fun)!

Explore the Web:
For K-8 check out:

http://www.funbrain.com/

February 14, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

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