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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

Nurturing your students’ emotional development. 

Teachers have a lot on their plates! Satisfying the rigours of curriculum and balancing the complexities (or chaos) of the school and classroom environments is vital to our jobs. It’s important, however, that we acknowledge the significance and influence of our role in society.

Every day we have the opportunity to guide, support, lead and shape the behaviour and development of children and teens. We can use this opportunity to nurture the emotional development of young people, giving them tools to live productive and satisfying lives in an often complicated and stressful world.  

An individual’s emotional Intelligence, or lack thereof, can have a huge impact on their work life, relationships, success and happiness. Our emotional intelligence included our ability to: exercising self-awareness, manage our emotions, motivate ourselves and others, empathise with others, and build and maintain meaningful relationships.

As teachers, we talk a lot about student development. There is curriculum to align, outcomes to match and work samples to analyse. Summative assessment, that is the evaluation of learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing to a standard or benchmark, can be relatively straightforward. You have a piece of ‘evidence’ and you see if it shows that students are proficient in a  particular skill.

Formative assessment on the other hand can be slightly more troublesome. In this case, the assessment process is conducted during the learning process so that the teaching can be modified accordingly to improve student learning outcomes. Now, let’s take it a step further, into even more challenging and difficult terrain, that of emotional development.

In short, emotional development:

Involves learning what feelings and emotions are, understanding how and why they happen, recognising one’s own feelings and those of others, and developing effective ways of managing them. Kids Matter

How do we assess our students’ emotional development so that we can support them more thoroughly in class?

Develop your students’ sense of self

It is crucial that students develop an accurate sense of self. Allow students to develop an understanding of their individuality and a healthy perspective of their unique contribution to the world.

Provide opportunities for them to talk about their emotions

Giving students opportunities to communicate how they are feeling is fundamental to a child’s emotional development. You could consider using a colour scheme in your class and students could point to the colour or emotion that they are feeling.

Give them strategies to manage their emotions

Students must be given opportunities to manage their own emotions. Some strategies include giving students a relaxing area in your classroom in which they can pause and reflect on how they are feeling.

Teachers have the opportunities to make a difference in a young person’s life every day! Nurturing of emotional development in our students can help them to develop into productive citizens, parents, employees. leaders and more. You may have the privilege of teaching  thousands of students in your lifetime, paying attention to this area of development will help to equip to understand and navigate the bright and complex future they face. 

For more resources about emotional development, I highly recommend the Kids Matter website.

Posted by Mathew Green on November 21, 2016  /   Posted in student engagement

How to re-engineer your morning routine.

I had been trying for year, sometimes successfully and other times not so much, to become more of a morning person. I live in a beautiful part of the world, with lots of peace and quiet, and a short walk from the beach – I really have no excuse to not enjoy the morning! Mornings to me represent starting well. If I start the day well, eat a nutritious breakfast and have some time to myself, then the rest of the day tends to flow quite nicely.

I noticed the importance of my morning ritual, when I first started in my teaching career. For many years, I would go to bed late (due to marking), get up early and skip breakfast. By the time I arrived at school, I was rushed, unprepared, hungry and caffeine overloaded. I hadn’t even started the day and I’d be feeling stressed and desperate for a break.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to seriously look at and approach my morning routine strategically. One morning, when I was tired of being tired, I decide to write down everything that I did that morning.

My aim was to see where my time was being spent and what I could do better. This exercise was confronting and immediately highlighted areas that I could improve on.

Below are a few suggestions (in no particular order) of how I re-engineered my morning schedule:

Each morning I try to have time to myself, to think and reflect about the day ahead of me. It’s a great way to push pause and clear your mind of the clutter and stress buzzing around in there.

Each morning I try to exercise (either got to the gym or go for a walk). It helps me to focus and feel energised for the coming day.

Each morning I try to eat a wholesome and nutritious breakfast. Proper nutrition helps to keep you focused until recess. I tend not to eat breakfast at home because I leave quite early in the morning. Instead I keep a bag of oats at school.

Each morning I try to plan and prepare for the next day. Things in school change quickly; someone is sick, the photocopier breaks, or a myriad of other tings can happen. By planning ahead I can have contingency plans and remain flexible if I need to.

Starting the day feeling refreshed, well nourished and focused can have great positive effects on your teaching day. Remember if you don’t look after yourself you will not bring your best into the classroom.

Even if you’re a night owl, you can still benefit from doing mornings well. Your morning ritual can change your whole day, if you get a little deliberate about it.

Posted by Mathew Green on November 07, 2016  /   Posted in Uncategorized

‘I’m busy, really busy….’

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 nametag) 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 – instead of just blurting out how I felt I actually took the time to stop and listen to how I was feeling.
  2. I had to expand my vocabulary further – I had to search deep into my reservoir of language and find more suitable descriptive words like complex, full, challenging and intense.
  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 June 06, 2016  /   Posted in looking after yourself, stress

What to do when you feel like you are slipping?

I’m sure no one ever sets out to become a bored, frustrated and mundane teacher. At some point, even the most out-dated and unmotivated professionals actually cared for the profession. The scary thing is that mediocrity seems to seep in slowly. Mediocrity seems to seep slowly into teaching practise – I know because I have experienced it in my own teaching.

Mediocrity is dangerous. It’s dangerous not only because a blasé approach to teaching directly impacts the students that you teach but also because it seem to creep in ever so slowly.

You have all been either subject to or affected by average teaching. I’m sure that no of the teacher started their teaching career feeling like they wanted to become frustrated with the profession. I recently took a new off-class position in a school. It was a wonderful opportunity and a great to further my professional development. Having said that, the adjustment hasn’t been easy. I have had to transfer to a new school (from one that I absolutely loved), leave my Kindergarten class half way through the year, learn a new set of rules and school protocols, meet new people, develop new programs and start afresh with a new group of students. In a funny kind of way, even though I have been teaching for a number of years, I have just had another experience that is not too dissimilar to that of new teachers!

In the first term or so of this new job I felt like I was starting to slip slightly. Despite writing extensively to new teachers and trying to inspire them with phrases like: excellence in teaching, initiating change in your school, passionate professionalism and don’t loose your spark I found myself slipping, slowly. I can honestly say that I truly enjoy and am passionate about the job that I am in, I have a renewed sense of excitement for teaching and I am a passionate as every about education. But this didn’t happen naturally, rather it was the result of a number of specific and intentional acts. So, how did I find my passion (again) for teaching?

I got honest with myself. I acknowledged that something had changed, I didn’t know what, but I knew that something wasn’t right. You cannot change what you don’t acknowledge.

I took responsibility. I decided not to blame anyone else, and I decided to figure it out.

I wrote down my priorities. I remaindered myself of what was important in my teaching profession.

I reread my teaching philosophy. I dug out the teaching philosophy that I used in my DET interview. I choose that one because I wrote it before I had set foot in the classroom, and before I knew what it was to be frustrated at teaching.

I made a plan. I decided that if I was going to do something I wanted to make it great. I wanted my department to be known for getting results.

I decided to take action. I instead of putting it off, I decided to take action and do something.

If you are like me and have questioned your role and wondered if you have chosen the right career don’t worry. It’s perfectly acceptable to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. You may have had a horrible day, a horrible week or a horrible year. The important thing is to not stay there. Failing to be honest with yourself and ignoring the situation will not fix it. Identifying that you are ‘slipping’ is really important. You have to recognise that something is not right, and you need to make some very intentional decisions to get your head in the right place. If you feel like you are slipping, don’t worry, acknowledge the situation, calm yourself and make a plan.

Posted by Mathew Green on March 17, 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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