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Creating S-P-A-C-E in Term 2

Time for a great article from Aziza Green:

I made a big decision before we moved to our new place. I believe this one decision has given us back 15 to 25 hours  a week back in productivity and rest, and more s-p-a-c-e.

We gave up living with a TV in the house.

Sounds so simple… silly even, but this one decision has changed our lives. I can’t rave about this lifestyle choice enough! I’m not out to convince anyone to get rid of their TV, but let me just rave a little bit more about it before you dismiss me as a lentil-loving-hippie.

Greater productivity

Okay, I’m not saying I get home from work and write 2000 words a day (although occasionally I do) or that I’ve become some kind of supreme being (although I can see the similarities), but I’ve found that I take care of business like I never did when I had the TV on. I have the energy and motivation to clean more, to take care of my nails, to plan ahead so that I don’t miss things/events/parties. What I’m saying is, I clear my mind and clear my to-do list, so that when my writing day or the weekend comes I have the head space to get stuff done.

Also, in the absence of a TV, I’ve remembered all the books I have in our book shelf. I started reading more fiction and more of things I’ve always been interested in like psychology, history, art and more. I even started reading some of my husband’s books about finance and business, which I previously would not have touched if my life depended on it. My brain feels challenged, full and hungry all at the same time!

Rest

I never found watching TV restful. Often I would switch off the TV and feel agitated, restless, over stimulated and bored. Watching TV doesn’t challenge your brain nor does it give it a chance to process what’s happened in the day. It’s pure distraction, an opportunity to zone out and be entertained without expending any mental energy.

At first, when we went TV-less, I found that my head would freak out when I got home at the end of the work day. I would feel bored and overwhelmed with my own thoughts. It took a while to get past that.

Now to unwind I make a peppermint tea and sit quietly, or my husband & I talk about our days (who knew he was so interesting!), or I read, or I cook something delicious to share together. By the time I’m ready to bed, I feel like I’ve had a full day of hours. I feel rested and ready to sleep.

Space

We have more physical space in our home. We live in a two bedroom apartment – space is a precious commodity for us! Instead of a TV as the focus of our living room we have a big window that looks out to some trees, blue sky and a little bit of the ocean if you lean to the left and squint a little. The result is a living room that seems bigger, brighter, uncluttered and peaceful. There’s also the metaphoric space, which I’ve already mentioned. I’m not exaggerating when I say I have sent entire Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons lying on our sofa and staring out of that big window. When Monday comes I feel like I’ve had a good break and I’m ready for the new week.

Also that lack of constant advertising means that I no longer want more clothes, kitchen utensils, gadgets, snuggies, those porcelain dolls that you paint the face onto – thus the entire house has less stuff in it too. Funny that.

Not sure what we’ll do when we have kids old enough to care about things like TV, but I’m kinda hoping that a lack of TV will drive said future kids to pursue other enriching activities. To be seen I guess.

Okay I’m done raving. I know I said I wasn’t going to try to convince anyone to give it up, but I’ve just changed my mind. If you are lacking in productivity, rest and space you should give up your TV for a while and see if it makes a difference. It does take some adjusting to, but you’ll soon find better ways to occupy your precious free time. Maybe salsa dancing classes, more varied reading, more laughter, more dinners together, more life outside the box (see what I did there?)

How do you create more space for what is important?

Posted by Mathew Green on May 02, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

8 Must-Do’s For New School Leaders

Here is another brilliant article from Megan Dredge. When I read this article I was actually in the process of writing on a similar topic. I stopped… and decided to focus on Megan’s article instead. She is a brilliant leader, both inside and outside of the classroom, and I can’t think of anyone better to speak on the topic.

Enter Megan:

Taking on a new leadership role is an admirable venture. Many teachers aspire to a leadership responsibility and look forward to a season of new beginnings. Learning to juggle your new leadership role can be exciting and rewarding, and can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming. Here are 8 strategies to help you be a great leader in your school.

1. Clarify what’s expected of you

As a leader, ask lots of questions about what is expected of you and get clarity on your role. Knowing what your goals are and what you are aiming to achieve is the most crucial step in getting your leadership journey off to a good start.

2. Get to know your team

The people you are leading want to know that you genuinely care about them and that you are genuinely interested in them. Take notice of what is going on in their world and always be looking for opportunities to learn something new about your team members.

3. Encourage team members’ strengths

As you build genuine relationships with your team, you will learn what they are good at and what they are passionate about. A great leader knows the strengths of their team members and gives them opportunities to use them.

4. Be a good follower

If you want your team members to follow you then be a good example. Show them how you are part of a greater team (your ‘boss’ or the person you report to) and how you are committed to that greater team.

5. Confront when appropriate

Great leaders know how to have a difficult conversation. There will be times when you need to confront a team member – as a leader, do it with kindness and fairness.

6. Say sorry

Great leaders are humble enough to admit their mistakes and to actually say sorry. Be a leader who shows your team members that you too are on a learning journey and that it is ok to make mistakes and admit when you are wrong.

7. Encourage ongoing professional development

I’m sure you have heard it said that leaders are learners. It is absolutely true. A great leader is always growing and developing and enthusiastically encourages his or her team to engage in regular Professional Development.

8. Have an open door policy

Be approachable. Make it easy for your team to come and talk to you. Don’t hide in your office or behind your desk. Keep your door open and welcome conversation from your team members. Help them feel at ease when they talk to you and do the hard work to make every conversation productive and useful.

This week’s assignment:

As a leader in your school, choose one of these 8 strategies and really focus on it in your interactions with your team members this week.

Enjoy the journey,

And more importantly,

Enjoy the moments.

:)

Megan

 

Posted by Mathew Green on April 29, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Excuse me… Stop and listen

Take a moment to think back to when you were at school. In primary school I remember being obsessed with transformers, The Spice Girls and what my friends though of me. I was a slightly overweight, pasty and short student who cared deeply about the opinions of the ‘popular children’ and who always strived to please the teachers. I was a diligent student. I remember one day in the playground telling my Year 3 teacher, Mrs. Richards, that a group of students wouldn’t let me play with them. They were being mean and calling me names. I recall it, as if it was yesterday, Mrs. Richards stopped her conversation with one of her colleagues and shooed me away. I persisted, and told her my traumatic tale again, and once again she shooed me away with a waving hand. At that moment I walked away trying hold back tears. At that time in my life being accepted by my friends was a big deal – in fact, it was my world. Mrs. Richards was a great teacher; passionate, kind and dedicated; yet in that moment she was busy, probably tired and otherwise disinterested.

I too have been guilty of Mrs. Richard’s mistake. Sometime you get busy and your mind is a million miles away. As teachers we can never be too busy, or too distracted to engage with our students. We need to get into their wonderful world so that we can truly engage with them.

When you on playground duty be present – Playground duty can be chore, but you need to loo at it as a wonderful opportunity to connect with your students outside of the classroom.

Emphasise with your students – Think back to when you were their age. What was important to you?  Just watch the faces of you students light up when you actively participate in their lives.

Be interruptible by your students – no matter how busy you are.

As teachers, your words are held in high esteem. By taking a little bit of time each day, you can step inside the wonderful world of your class –  world full of imagination, friendship drama and infinite possibilities.

Posted by Mathew Green on April 28, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Why I got rid of my desk.

At the beginning of each term, or at the end of the last (depending on how organised you are), our classrooms get a little makeover. Newly covered walls, exciting displays and a revamped book corner add a little life to our spaces. This term, however, I have decided to do a little simplifying, a little decluttering if you will.

For too long my desk (and I assume yours too) has served as a dumping ground for files, textbooks, student work, forgotten cups of tea, lunch boxes and all manner of other school-related paraphernalia.  Every morning my desk starts clean, well mostly, and ordered. Yet somehow by the end of every day, my desk looks like a cyclone has hit it.

So I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get rid of the whole desk.

It seems extreme, but I’ve been asking myself for some time now – what is the purpose of every object in my classroom? For me, the clutter is a distraction, but it’s more than just about keeping a tidy desk. This experiment for me is about questioning what drives student learning in our classrooms.

Being Present in the Classroom

As teachers, our interactions with students are precious and we need to make the most of them. Having a desk has often provided a (highly desirable) barrier between the teacher and the students. It’s a place we can retreat to, to mark work, take care of some admin or just have a timeout. No judgement, we’ve all been there. The temptation to hide behind our fortress is often too strong for us to resist.

Removing our desks increases opportunities to engage with our students. This increase in classroom interactions should also help to improve learning outcomes.

The Decluttering Bonus

Everything must have a place –no longer can things be dumped, thrown or ‘filed’ away on a desk. This means that books, stickers, pens and folders need to have a home and my students and I need to learn new habits of putting everything in its place.

By establishing new classroom habits and processes, I hope to save myself a stack of time reserved for tidying at the end of each day/week/month.

Incremental Improvements

I have high hopes for my desk-free experiment, but I’m not looking for a one-off cure to all my classroom challenges. As I said, I’ve been questioning the necessity of every item in my classroom. I believe that we can all make small changes which may incrementally improve student learning.

Getting rid of desk won’t fix all our problems, but it may just help us be a little more present in your classroom. Our job is complex enough and we need to ensure that our students’ learning is central.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new term without my trusty desk. I’ll keep you updated with the challenges and rewards. Maybe you could join me in this experiment and we can learn something new together.

Posted by Mathew Green on April 20, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

The words we use

We live in a full world. We rush, we run, we shuffle papers, we attempt to multitask and we are all over-committed. We have a lot on our plates and it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to keep them all spinning simultaneously. I get it, I truly do.

The other day I was on my way home from school and I called into my local shops to pick up something for dinner. When I had decided what to buy I walked to the checkout. There a young man, probably in late teens, served me. I asked him how his day had been and before I had finished my sentence he responded ‘busy, really busy, you have no idea how busy.’ I was taken aback. Nevertheless, I wished him well and proceeded to walk to the car and head home for dinner.

As I was driving I couldn’t get his response out of my head ‘busy, really busy….’ I don’t mean to sound archaic or insensitive, but what would a young working casually (I assumed from his school logo that was visible under his name tag) know about being busy? I began to get defensive and thoughts like ‘…what would he know about being BUSY? I’ll give him one day…one day…in a classroom and see how he copes with being really busy!’

After I had returned home and settled down, I began to be a bit more apathetic about what had happened at the checkout. I realised that when you ask people how their day is going quite often the first response is ‘busy’ or that they are ‘tied.’ It is a response that we can’t help giving, it is automatic and it is a response that is ingrained into our twenty-first-century lives.

Now busyness and tiredness in the twenty-first century is a far greater topic than we have time for in this short post, but it did get me thinking. I decided that for thirty days that I would try an experiment.

For thirty days, when someone asked, despite how tired, overwhelmed and stressed out I felt, I would search for other adjectives that ‘busy’ or ‘tired’ to describe my mood and my day. As a result, some interesting things happened:

1. I had to pause and think about how I was actually feeling.

2. I had to expand my vocabulary further.

3. I felt less tired or stressed the less that I used those words.

4. I learnt that my the words that I used had a powerful influence on my mood.

The words that you use have a power influence on your mood, your emotions, and your mental state. I encourage you all to take the Thirty Day Challenge and please let me know how you go.

Posted by Mathew Green on April 17, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

The joy of learning something new everyday.

My wife and I are HUGE nerds. We love reading, discovering new things and discussing ideas. We have more books (both physical, electronic and audio ones) than we will every read in a lifetime. Our evenings are often spent sharing the latest news or information we’ve picked up or the newest productivity hacks we want to try out. We love outlining the premise of articles or books that have challenged or inspired us.

We often laugh at how intense and exhilarating our “nerd chats” can get! We’re learners and it’s probably why we’re so compatible despite being polar opposites in every other personality trait!

I’ve found that most passionate teachers are first passionate learners! They actually enjoy learning with their students, which is why their classes are always the most fun to be a part of. They view the world as a wonderfully complex and multifaceted place, they find opportunities to learn in every experience.

If you want to create an engaging environment that encourages your students to learn, you need to stoke the flames of your learner spirit. Here’s how:

Start fresh each day.

Each day is new beginning, a fresh start which presents a myriad of opportunities. Try to approach each day with fresh anticipation. Think from the perspective of a student. The day is filled with interesting things, sometimes you just have listen and open your eyes.

Keep an open mind

Being open-minded means that you enter into conversations and interactions as one who doesn’t know-it-all! Instead, think of yourself as a learner; one who is always trying to ask more questions rather than trying to dish out all the answers. When you enter a conversation from a position of humility you’ll find that you do in fact learn something new. You don’t have to agree with everything you learn, but you can be grateful for the information as it may help you somewhere down the track!

Listening attentively to others 

Active listening is hard, very hard. It’s hard to maintain focus on the person and not think about all the other places you have to be. The hardest part is to listen to someone without formulating a response or rebuttal to his or her comment.  As challenging as it is, active listening is essential when working with students and colleagues. Next time you find yourself in a conversation, whether with a student, a fellow teacher or a supervisor, instead of trying to get your opinion across why not practice asking more questions to ensure you understand what they are trying to communicate.

Make time for personal reflection

This year I wanted to focus on reflecting on what happens in my day-to-day life. This has meant developing a daily journaling habit. To help with this, I started using the journaling software DayOne. Each day I answer three questions:

1) What thing(s) did I do well today?
2) What thing(s) could I have done better?
3) What interesting thing did I read?
It’s quick and simple, but it forces me to pause and review each day. Over time I can start to see what really matters to me, what challenges come up again and again and what changes I need to get serious about if I want to move forward.

There is so much joy in learning something new each day. It is important for your personal life and your professional life to be someone who models self-reflection and a teachable attitude.

For those that are interested here are some of this week’s ‘nerd finds.’

20 Really Cool Google Features You Probably Don’t Know About

Why the Problem with Learning Is Unlearning

What motivates us to work? by behavioral economist Dan Ariely

10 Sites to Learn Something New in 10 Minutes a Day

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman an animated book review

What will you do this week to fuel the learner in you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the commnents below.

 

Posted by Mathew Green on February 27, 2017  /   Posted in student engagement, working with others

Do you remember being in school?

Do you remember being in school? When I was in primary school I remember being obsessed with transformers, The Spice Girls and rollerblading .. I was slightly overweight, pale skinned and short  and I  cared deeply about the opinions of the ‘popular kids’  and strived to please my teachers.

I remember one day in the playground telling my Year 3 teacher, Mrs Richards, that a group of students wouldn’t let me play with them. They were being mean and calling me names. Mrs. Richards stopped her conversation with one of her colleagues and shooed me away. I persisted, and told her my traumatic tale again, and once again she shooed me away with a waving hand.

At that time in my life being accepted by my friends was a big deal – in fact, it was my world. Mrs. Richards was a great teacher; passionate, kind and dedicated; yet in that moment she was busy, probably tired and disinterested. I walked away from that moment feeling hurt and more lonely than ever.

Sure, I got over it eventually, but I wonder how often we let our students down because we’re  busy or distracted by tasks that should come second to our students. As teachers we have a unique opportunity to help our students feel heard, significant and special. We need to get into their wonderful worlds so that we can truly engage with them.

Here are some ways to engage in more meaningful ways with your students:

  • When you on playground duty be present. Playground duty can be chore, or you can look at it as a wonderful opportunity to connect with your students outside of the classroom.
  • Emphasise with your students. Their concerns may seem minor to you now, but think back to when you were their age. What was important to you? Just watch the faces of your students light up when you actively participate in their lives.
  • Be interruptible.  You didn’t get into teaching to hide in the staff room or to diversify your photocopying skills. No matter how busy you are, whatever task  ‘must’ be done, you have to allow students to interrupt you.

Don’t underestimate how powerful your words and actions are in the lives of young people. By taking a little bit of time each day, you can step inside the wonderful world of your class. A world full of imagination, friendship drama and infinite possibilities.

Posted by Mathew Green on February 26, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Things Done: Helpful Productivity Tweaks

This piece originally appeared here.

A little while ago I had had the privilege of interviewing productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done (GTD) David Allen.

Getting things done feels amazing! It builds your confidence and momentum, especially when you’re starting a fresh new year. Unfortunately, many of us find that the to-do list is often much longer than the days in which we have to complete them. As you face the bright new year, here are a few productivity tips to get you off to a positive start with good productivity habits!

Brain dump” your to do list then prioritise

Do you start your day by writing a long to-do list? I love lists,  this is step one. Planning your day and your to-dos is a key part of getting things done, and more importantly, getting the right things done.

Your morning “brain dump” gets everything out of your head and onto a sheet of paper or a screen. Once you get it all out of your head, you can look at each task objectively and decide where to schedule them in your week. Creating a prioritised to-do list will help you to manage your time and energy rather than driving blind through a snowstorm of tasks.

Learning how to prioritise: Evaluate the value of each task

You took the time to read this so why not take the time to EVALUATE where you’re putting your energy. One of the best ways to do this is to use a system like the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. This matrix provides four categories under which all your tasks will fall:

Important AND Urgent: Just do it
Important but Not Urgent: Schedule it
Not Important but Urgent: Push Back
Not Important AND Not Urgent: Avoid

Eisenhower decision matrix

eisenhower decision matrix

Does everything feel urgent AND important all the time? This may indicate that you either have too much pressure in your life OR you’re rubbish at prioritising. If you have too much pressure, you need to make some serious changes in your life because you’re on track for a burn-out – just saying.

But… before you make any drastic changes, let’s just do a little experiment together. Sort your to-do list into the four quadrants of the Eisenhower decision matrix. Consider which tasks produce results that you want and start to prioritise these over the Not important items. You may be getting things done quickly, but are you spending all your energy on doing the right things?

Getting things done with deadlines

When a client or your boss ask you to do something, make a habit of asking the question: “When would you like that by?” This will help your client or superior articulate their expectations and help you to prioritise the work. If they’ve asked for 20 things today, you can follow up by asking: “Which of these tasks/projects are most important this week?”.

Creating deadlines helps to manage the other party’s expectations and your own. When you work without clear deadlines, you tend to focus on getting the easiest tasks on your to-do list done, which may feel satisfying, but doesn’t always pay off.

Manage your mood and stress

When you’re happy and calm you are more productive. You work smarter, you think more clearly and you can work for longer. Schedule activities and establish habits in your day that reduce stress and boost your mood. READER BEWARE. These items will always feel like your lowest priority, but if you make them your #1 priority you’ll be better at getting things done.

  • Exercise – I hate exercise. I complain before doing it, while I’m doing it, after I’ve done it. But I know that I’m sharper, happier and more effective when I get it done. Choose an activity (walking, jogging, HIIT, weight training, swimming, etc) you can learn to love and do it. Start with 20mins three times/week and build it up from there.
  • Drink HEAPS of water – I’m talking litres. Start from the minute you wake up and keep sipping until you go to bed. I love coffee, but I limit it to one/day and aim to drink 2.5Litres+ of water/day.
  • Make time for peace – Stare out of the window, breathe deeply, read a good book, pray, stretch, take a stroll. Whatever it looks like for you, make a little space to relax.
  • Choose your meals wisely – Treat your body to good healthy food and it’ll reward you with good vibes.
  • Reflect on your day – Write down your thoughts at the end of each day. Consider what went well in the day and what you would like to do better next time. If something’s bothering you, it should come up in this reflection time. Decide to either let it go or work out a way to resolve the issue and move forward.

Commit to your tools

Do you have about 15 different productivity apps or tools that you’ve “tried out” over the years? Time to quit fooling around and make a commitment. You can become more efficient and effective when you choose just one or two tools for getting things done.

This may take a few days or weeks, but move everything from all your various apps, notepads, pieces of paper into one place. And while you’re at it get your calendar in order. Putting everything in one place will simplify your process and ensure that you don’t miss anything.

Review

Not many people take the time to review how they are performing or how well their tools and systems are working. Schedule time once a month and once a quarter to review how things are going. This is a great time to celebrate your wins and give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve achieved. It’s also a great time to address those niggling little issues that keep coming up.

If you’ve been getting some negative feedback from others about some area of your work or how you work, make time to consider what the contributing factors might be. Do you need some training or mentoring? Is organisation an issue for you? Could a holiday help? There’s no point in beating yourself up! Approach your challenges with a focus on solutions and you’ll find a way through.

Taking the time to review will ensure that all your hard work is going into the right things.


What about you, do you have any productivity tips for getting things done?

 

Posted by Mathew Green on January 10, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

A year in review.

Thank you. I still am truly humbled that new teachers from all over the world stop by, read and share the articles and resources at I’m a New Teacher. It has been wonderful to hear your stories and to engage in discussions.

Below is are a few of the most viewed articles of 2016.

Why great teaching (still) really matters.  As a recent graduate, you are embarking on a rewarding and noble career. Whether you’re casual, permanently employed, working as a support teacher or on a temporary contract with your school, you are directly involved in educating, training and shaping some of the greatest minds that this world is yet to see.

An interview with Professor John HattieLike most Australian teachers, I first heard about Professor John Hattie’s work in an undergraduate lecture theatre. Despite the caffeine buzz and the limited nutrition damaging my body, I was impressed and inspired by the prolific work executed by Professor Hattie in the name of improving education outcomes in Australia and beyond. Professor Hattie is renowned for his research in student engagement and measurement of quality teaching and learning.

One of the greatest prac students I have ever met. I wanted to congratulate you again for choosing such an admirable and rewarding career. Teaching is a fast paced and challenging profession and schools need dedicated and committed professionals now, more than ever. I have worked in schools for a number of years, and I have met many wonderful and inspiring teachers. I am so impressed by the standard and the commitment of the new teachers that I meet. I want to tell you a story – one about the greatest

Convictions that drive us.  I have many convictions that help to shape my life. I have convictions about looking after my health, building a strong marriage and convictions about investing time and energy into my family and friends.

I hope that you and your families have a refreshing, relaxing and rejuvenating holiday. I looking forward seeing you all in 2017.

Mathew

Posted by Mathew Green on December 22, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

How to finish the year strong.

It’s easy to sprint out of the starting blocks, tick off your to-do lists and kick goals in Term One of the year. We are excited to be in our new school, on our new class or to be a part of a new team. There are clear, concise professional and personal goals clearly displayed (probably with colour-coded sticky notes). The beginning of any school year is an exciting time. By the Term Two we are well into the swing of things, we have routines established, our new behaviour management program is chugging away and things are humming along beautifully.

Then the Term Three starts, niggling issues start to rear their ugly heads, people start annoying us and we start to get that familiar tickle in our throats. Then, suddenly we realise that Term Four is upon us; reports, parent teacher interviews, behavioural issues, end of year function and the flu season. Before we know it the end of the year is a stone’s throw away.  Finishing the year strong is really important as it helps us to launch into the next year. It’s understandable that you might feel lethargic and tired at this point of the year, but now is the time to dig deep and finish strong. Here are some suggestions for finishing your year strong:

Say a specific thank you.

Despite what kind of year you’ve had – inspiring, frustrating, awful or awe inspiring – there is always someone who you can thank. Maybe your supervisor, your principal, a parent or a classroom assistant. Specific and intentional gratitude or praise is amazing for the recipient, but it’s powerful for you too! Gratitude instantly lifts your mood and gives you a better perspective on things.

Tidy your storeroom.

The good ol’ storeroom. That ‘blackhole’ where partially completed class projects, those papier-mâché volcanoes and old syllabus documents are hiding. You’ve put off the clean out for the last three terms, and now things in there are trying to escape. Book an hour or two into your next two weeks and get stuck in there. Be ruthless with decluttering and you’ll love yourself for it in the new year.

Create moments.

Amidst the chaos and complexity of this term take the time to create memories with your students. Create space to talk, to laugh and reflect on the year that it has been.

 Plan for 2017. 

Take some time to think about what you would like 2017 to look like. Is it time to focus in on your teaching pedagogy or is this the year that you will start working on your resume for your next career step? Whatever the case, take a few moments to dream, imagine and plan for 2017.

No year is perfect. There are a host of things that you could have, should have and probably will do better next year. Despite the year that you have had and regardless of how you feel right now you can still decide to finish 2017 strong.

Posted by Mathew Green on December 09, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized
Whether you’re a casual teacher, permanently employed, working as a support teacher or on a temporary contract with your school, you are directly involved in educating, training and shaping some of the greatest minds that this world is yet to see.
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