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SLTcamp - igniting Change - My Contribution (The one That Made Us Think That Change Is A Good Thing.)

posted 2 Nov 2013, 15:14 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 2 Nov 2013, 15:18 by Stephen Lockyer ]

I’ve been a teacher for 10 years now, and I think the one thing that has characterised this time the most is change. Like everyone else, I have experienced a great deal of change, first as a classroom teacher, then as a middle manager and, more recently, as a senior leader on the Extended Leadership Team. These changes include major curricula and assessment redesign, considerable shifts in pedagogy and approaches to professional development. Probably the most pernicious development, though, is the rise in accountability measures, from teachers being held increasingly responsible for pupil progress to institutions gearing their daily practice and resources to achieving relatively narrow, short-term outcomes. We are all familiar with the culture of perverse incentives that change over the past decade or so has instigated.

Whilst there was a time – both professionally and personally – where I might have feared change, I have long since realised that it is part and parcel of the profession and learnt to embrace it. Managing change is what we do as teachers; it is what is expected of us. With each new academic year comes a whole raft of new challenges for schools to face: new government policy and exam reform to absorb, new staff to embed and existing staff to motivate and develop. Not to mention the different and evolving characteristics of each year group as it makes its way up the school. Reacting to change is in our DNA.

For me, the greatest and most beneficial change to impact the profession has been the rise of social media and collaborative events like Teachmeets and SLT Camp. This really has been a meaningful development, notably in the way that teachers interact, sharing ideas, approaches and resources and discussing, arguing and challenging each other over the latest piece of research or leaked government reform. Importantly, these changes to the way teachers work and think has brought about changes in the classroom for students – surely the end goal for all of us as educators. This is the kind of change that I want to be part of – one that actually drives improvement and raises standards in education. Change by teachers with teachers for students.

I realise that I have so far have focused my attention more on the way that we as teachers and leaders react to the decisions made by others. How we respond to change; not how we instigate it or drive it forwards, which is what we should be doing whatever our role in schools, but particularly as members of the senior leadership team, whose moral and professional imperative is to instigate changes that make students learn more and teachers teach more effectively. To me, this is less about generating ideas about how to make things better, or clever ways to improve this or that. I think that working as teacher and then Head of Department has given me a pretty good grasp of what needs to happen. Twitter and some of the incredible blogs out there have only increased to this store of ideas.

I suppose I am therefore less interested in the concept of change as idea and more about change as process, particularly with regards to my own development as a senior leader. I want to create and sustain changes that will make a lasting difference to the lives of young people, not only in my school but also beyond it. I am hoping that SLTCamp will help me understand more about how to make this goal an actuality. Judging by the list of attendees and their considerable expertise, I doubt I will be disappointed.  

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#SLTcamp Igniting Change (The One That Made Us See That Change is A Journey.)

posted 29 Oct 2013, 09:09 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 29 Oct 2013, 09:09 by Stephen Lockyer ]

change make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone: to change one’s name; to change one’s opinion; to change the course of history. transform or convert (usually followed by into). substitute another or others for another. give and take reciprocally; interchange: to change places with someone. transfer from one (conveyance) to another.

To write this blog I went back to my notes that I did when I did my Leadership pathways qualification in 2010. At this time I had been seconded to SLT for the first time. The first unit involved looking at our ideal self and the following question was posed — ‘What sort of leader do you want to be?’ My answer to that question was ‘well respected and organsied, someone people go to for advice and to be inspirational. To lead by example and to implement change effectively and follow it through’.

There’s that word change appearing again, we know from the definition that change is to do something different from what we would do if we left something alone. If we leave something alone it will simply remain the same it will not change. Something’s are great to be left alone but other things require change to move forward, to go on a journey.

One of the best things I have learnt in my leadership experience, short as it maybe, is that you cannot change everyone or everything and sometimes you have to change the way you are around people, in essence change is not always about other people but about you.

Change is never easy and I have been guilty of being far too sensitive and taking things personally, the more experience you have the more this changes or at least you learn not to show it! Being impatient and wanting everything to change quickly is unrealistic, it doesn’t just happen like that.

So what processes do I follow when trying to change something? Always involve people, consult and LISTEN to their ideas and then try to implement their ideas with yours! Involve people at all levels, the caretakers have great ideas!

Change is a journey — have an idea but be prepared for it to change andgo with it!

Change can be brilliant, change can be wonderful, change can be inspiring but it can also be difficult, cause upset and negativity.

I’m not a Head or a Deputy yet but one day soon I hope to embark on that journey.

“The hill is high, there are windy paths…I stood at the bottom alone…but slowly, slowly as we tackle the hill the trekkers began to walk beside me” — a great quote from a friend who recently became a Primary HT.

I cannot wait to share ideas, cakes and even my hair straighteners with like minded passionate indiviuals on the weekend 15th-17th November at the very first #sltcamp

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Exploding Leadership? The Problem With Igniting Change. (The One That Made Us Stop And Think.)

posted 29 Oct 2013, 09:06 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 2 Nov 2013, 15:20 by Stephen Lockyer ]

So - my attempt at a blog prior to SLTcamp.

It's probably the English teacher in me, but on given the theme of 'igniting change', I'm immediately drawn to the language we use, as teachers and as leaders. I remember, for example, talking with one colleague who would repeatedly refer to efforts to improve learning and teaching as a 'crusade', 'a battle' or 'a campaign', with the vaguely sinister militaristic language revealing much about their fundamental conception of what leadership in schools is all about. Other typical examples of the language of leadership include such gems as 'driving change', 'driving up standards' and 'accelerating progress', all of which sound a bit Top Gear for my liking. 'Igniting' change - I'm not sure. Makes me think of... burns, maybe arson. It's a little bit explodey, a bit space-rockety for my liking. It seems to suggest a vision of the leader being the agent which brings light and power to the dulled masses, sparking off a firework display of professional growth and success through the illuminating brilliance of their input, and in my experience so far, it's just not like that.

My own early leadership experiences provide some useful case studies of clumsily trying to ignite change in a very leader-led, top down way. About seven years ago, I was appointed leader of an English faculty that was full of committed, experienced, successful teachers. It was clear within a few minutes of starting in the job that behaviour in lessons was something that we could improve; having come from a school with relatively strong behaviour systems, the obvious conclusion seemed to be that some change needed igniting round these here parts, and I was the guy to do it! In my old school, behaviour was great - surely all we needed to do was copy the same systems that I was used to, and that would be job done.  I therefore made the classic leadership error of thinking that a 'good idea', presented via a powerpoint lecture in a faculty meeting, was exactly what was needed to light the tinder paper of success. Personally, I was excited: 'Ignition achieved - 10, 9, 8, here we go people, ready for LIFT OFF PEOPLE!' (thinking this, not actually saying it, let's be clear on that). Back in the real world, everyone nodded along - it was, to be fair, a beautiful presentation: animations not overdone, nothing tacky, tasteful colour scheme, the lot -, and I then sat back and watched as absolutely nothing changed. At all. No-one had any ownership of my 'good idea' but me and, I suppose, my old school but that didn't help much. This is what happens, I think, when leaders try to force change in a way which is non-consultative, led by one individual, and quick-fix - the hero, space rocket model of leadership which sees the leader as the bearer of wisdom, whose function is to generously share their compelling insights, thereby waking all the other poor buggers up from their relative professional slumber and MAKING EVERYTHING BETTER. Starting NOW!

These days, now that I have moved on from being Head of English (the year before all this new-fangled and, let's be honest, hideous Controlled Assessment system was brought in, so lucky lucky me), the approach we try to take at our school is characterised by sustaining focus on a very few areas of classroom practice; those which evidence suggests make the most difference. 'Good ideas', or at least  new good ideas are therefore fairly rare - in a bid to avoid the draining initiative-overload of the past, we are trying to foster much more realistic and ultimately more profound change. An illustrative recent case study is the way we've tried to improve the use of models / success criteria in lessons. This seems to be a particularly significant aspect in our school as we have such a range of attainment on entry - the fact is that some of our students will be able to cope without the clarity and explicitness that modelling of quality is designed to provide, and they will still make reasonable progress. Others, who perhaps come from less literate or advantaged backgrounds, need to be shown what to do more carefully, and to have quality unpicked a little more, in order to give them access to success.

To try to engender actual change in this area, we've tried to just keep it at or near the top of the agenda in school, building training around it, referring to it in lesson observation feedback, sharing practice of successful examples from various subjects etc. Teachers have invested significant time and efforts in trying to develop their skills in this area, and we have seen some superb stuff. However, it's a slow process, for the simple reason that learning complex skills is slow, especially when you are dealing with the day-to-day, minute-to-minute demands of being  a classroom teacher in a secondary school. If pushed on language, I'd have to go for something less exciting than is implied by a sparky 'ignition' - much more along the lines of smouldering, slow burning change, with leaders gently blowing on the embers from time to time and not getting frustrated and building a whole new fire when it seems that the first one has gone out.

Another fascinating aspect to all this change is the extent to which leaders deal with what Michael Fullan (actually, probably not him in the first instance, but anyway it's in his book) calls 'the implementation dip'. This refers to the fact that, as teachers are generally already at a level of competence and confidence in their work, by dint of the training and experience they've already had, any attempt to change practice is likely to result in a dip in performance for a while, before improvement is felt. This is all sensible, logical thinking - to get better we might need to get a bit worse in the short term, but it is kind of awkward when we are working in an educational context which seems to call for constant, smooth improvement and 'rapid progress' on every front. Our emphasis on modelling as described above exemplifies this well - very often, when a teacher who is not in the habit of regularly modelling for quality in tasks then tries to incorporate this strategy in their lessons, it won't go well for a while.Typically, teachers who haven't placed much emphasis in lessons on modelling may tend to over-complicate initially - to try to use models / success criteria which are too big or clunky, or lessons may become excessively teacher-led as the class are taken through the model in detail. There's the problem of ensuring that the model provided really does exemplify the summary of qualities provided in the success criteria - if not, then it gets confusing for students and can be counter-productive.

Ultimately, after considerable practice, failure, reflection, persistence and all that, it's usually a productive journey, and fluid, light touch, precise, interactive modelling of quality in tasks really does result in a much wider proportion of students being able to gain the satisfaction and fulfilment of producing excellent work. My point here, is simply that the journey to get to this worthy goal, is far from a leader-inspired flaring into life of dormant practice. Rather than an ignition of change, it comes from a 'recognition' (clever wordplay, thanks) that change is often a ponderous, lumbering dinosaur of a beast, and that, in the words of Bruce Hornsby and his Range, is just the way it is.

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SLTcamp on my mind - The one that made us recognise the flicker of change on the horizon

posted 29 Oct 2013, 09:02 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 29 Oct 2013, 09:02 by Stephen Lockyer ]

The nights are drawing in, the mornings are harder to greet and SLT camp is drawing closer. The theme ‘Igniting Change’ is currently flickering within me, ideas popping back and forth for my teachmeet. Six minutes to share something, anything, but it needs to be interesting. My first half term as a proper, invited member of SLT has been very positive. Finally my ideas are listened to and taken on board; something I must remember as a senior teacher, everyone has great ideas. 

The best idea so far by far was to introduce the idea of teachmeets to our staff meetings. We sign up for a session and warm up the staff meeting with an idea to share. So far we have had ‘explain everything’ app; a class parents presentation evening which the year 5 teacher successfully implemented; and an introduction to Pinterest. For some that wasn’t new but so what, we were able to throw our favourite pinning ideas into the mix. The teachers so far seem divided in two camps, those who will go for it and those who don’t want to share, I think the second group will take a little longer but will give it a go.

My research for the leadership course I am on has introduced me to... 

Seth Godin (great Tedtalk)

Michael Fullan,

Inspirational writers about change and leadership. What I love about reading these is the accessibility of the writing, the kind of dip in and out style. With my schedule I cannot hope to read something heavy and actually remember what I’ve read!  I hope to become a better leader because of them.

Now finally, I did make a suggestion regarding notebooks and it seems I have signed up to something unknown, I am also putting money on it being @mrlockyer and not @msfindlater who is arranging torturous times! Please be kind!! Or I won’t bring cake!!!

Boost, boost.

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Lhiat Myr Toilliu - SLT camp, I can’t wait. (The One That Made Us Want To Strive For Success)

posted 4 Oct 2013, 14:18 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 4 Oct 2013, 14:18 by Stephen Lockyer ]

First thoughts

Lhiat Myr Toilliu
SLT camp, I can’t wait.

I was introduced to Twitter and the wealth of enthusiasm and knowledge out there for like minded people about 2 years ago and it certainly was a revelation. I have read lots of posts and only dared to chip in now and again. I follow lots of people who I admire, but a part of me hasn’t dared lift my head above the parapet and get more involved. Living on the Isle of Man makes getting to evening teach meets rather tricky so when SLT camp announced a full weekend event I plucked up the courage to ‘go for it!’ I feel very brave taking part as I can imagine that the weekend will take me out of my comfort zone, but I like a challenge.

My first challenge has been to write this blog. Me a blog…..! I never thought that I would see the day but life is like that, things can seem very hard until the first steps are taken. I am looking forward to SLT camp as I want to be stretched and challenged and I am sure that will happen. My second challenge after writing this blog will be to decide which home baked goody will survive a plane journey intact! Like anything I’m sure that there will be a solution and in this case it will hopefully be a tasty solution!

Thank you for organising the event, the title for this blog is Lhiat Myr Toilliu, which is Manx for success as you deserve. I am confident that with all the energy and thought that has been put into this event that it will firmly ensure its success. I am really looking forward to meeting everybody, see you all soon.

Looking Forward To SLTcamp (The One That Made Us Want To Learn From Our Failures And Fix Up The Ranch!)

posted 17 Sep 2013, 12:59 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 17 Sep 2013, 12:59 by Stephen Lockyer ]

As a Guerrilla Geographer and general ‘troublemaker at large’ in my last post, I enjoy (un)conferences.  Especially those run on a weekend and promoted through social media. They tend to be full of like minded enthusiasts. It is true that there is often an element of preaching to the converted at such events, but the same can be said of many professional learning conferences and workshops.  When was the last time you genuinely came away from something with new views?  Having said that, there’s nothing wrong at all with gathering together a bunch of professionals that share the same page, especially as there’s no real plan and the sessions will be created by the people there.  The energy and enthusiasm of similar events (such as TLAB13) keeps my enthusiasm and love of teaching alive. The difficulty comes when it’s time to return to the ranch.

I’ve been involved in organising TeachMeet Pompey for a while now and have been lucky (although I’ve never really figured out how or why I get asked) to be invited to speak at a range of conferences and events.  The frustrating thing often is, that no matter how many nuggets picked up in the talks or brain melting thoughts shared, the real learning (for me anyway) comes over the dinner table or inside the bar afterward.  That’s not to say that in order to receive quality learning you need to eat and drink lots, although it helps….  That’s why I’m looking forward to #SLTCamp: for the opportunity to follow up conversations with a little less time constraint.  I’m looking forward to meeting others and sharing ideas, especially the times when things haven’t gone to plan or when something has failed.  Although that may sound bonkers, it’s through talking about challenges and low points that some of the most powerful learning takes place.
As it’s September the 1st at the time of writing, I’ll be starting my first senior leadership role tomorrow.  That’s a little scary and I’m looking forward to learning a great deal, the timing of #SLTCamp works well and I’m hoping to share some of the reflections of my first two months of the adventure.

The theme of the powwow is ‘Igniting Change.’  This to me links to the heart of what leadership is: leaders light the touch paper and stand back.  It’s about getting other people to do the right thing as no leader can change things on their own.  Of course, within education, it’s automatically assumed that change is always needed so it will be interested to consider howwe know that change is needed and how we figure out what the change needs to focus upon.  I’ve always been a great believer is simple but effective strategies that provide high leverage when compared to the input, so I hope that there will be a wealth of ideas around this theme.

As the person looking after NQTs, I always used to advise them to get off site to a conference aimed at NQTs.  The reason was to surround themselves with people in the same stage of learning as them.  It’s the realisation that you’re not the only one paddling that boat and that others are facing similar triumphs, frustrations and obstacles.  I’m hoping that #SLTCampwill do this for me around senior leadership.

On my part, I’m hoping to get participants out and about, perhaps with a Saturday morning run and/or some geocaching (I’m toying with the idea of attendees setting up an #SLTCamp themed Geocache).  I also hope to share how young people can be involved in providing feedback to leaders as well as getting involved in school change, even when it’s something controversial.  I’m also looking forward to sharing some approaches to CPD within school.  I have some experience of this and truly believe that high quality professional learning is engine to drive school improvement.
To put it simply, I’m looking forward to it!  Already the pre-challenges are getting the thoughts in order.  The biggest challenge so far is to think of something to bake……….

Suddenly I'm The New Boy Again (The One That Made Us Want To Keep On Making A Difference)

posted 17 Sep 2013, 12:45 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 17 Sep 2013, 12:45 by Stephen Lockyer ]

After being in my first teaching post for twenty years (I won't explain, its a long story) here I am two weeks into Deputy Headship and I'm loving every minute of it.

Twenty summers spent planning, preparing, compiling reports and trying to grab some family time! This year I was determined to completely recharge my batteries, particularly with working late most of the final half term at my previous school, finalising as much as possible for those taking on my old responsibilities. I read several good books, experimented with a few new recipes and ingredients in the kitchen and was able to appreciate the weather, made all the better by success in The Ashes!

At assembly on my final day I joked that twenty years beforehand, I had arrived dark haired, happy and full of great ideas, and that I was leaving with two out of those three still intact. The gene pool is to blame for the first on this list!

I didn't divorce myself entirely from education over the break. Twitter provides wonderful opportunities for free CPD for the teaching community, and serves as an excellent platform for sharing of the best practice and current development. The most useful links for me came from Heather Leatt (@Heatherleatt) with the highlighted changes to the OFSTED framework and . Extremely useful to have this 'heads up' before the year began. 

I am very much looking forward to attending SLT Camp (@SLTcamp) in November, with the chance to meet some of my fellow tweachers, and to share inspiration and innovation. Many thanks to Sarah Findlater (@MsFindlater) and Stephen Lockyer (@mrlockyer) for organising this.  With CPD offered by some LEAs a little thin on the ground and of sometimes questionable value, what an opportunity this is to encounter like minds, and to interact with secondary colleagues too. So glad I don't have to pack my wellies and sleeping bag.

Two weeks into term, and unsurprisingly I'm very busy already. There are plenty of challenges ahead, but I knew that, and it is one of the reasons I took on the position. One challenge to myself is to develop my educational blogging further. Let's see if I keep that one up!

Lest we forget, the reason we are in this business is to make a difference to children, and the responses they give our professional lifeblood. I took my first whole school assembly this week; the importance of creating a good first impression was my theme. I showed a picture of George Clooney. 

'Does anybody know who this is?' 

'Is it you Mr Cowley?'

I'll take that one! The gene pool has its uses sometimes!

SLTcamp Excitment (The One That Made Us Mull Over Past Achievements And Future Visions.)

posted 17 Sep 2013, 12:38 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 17 Sep 2013, 13:56 by Stephen Lockyer ]

I’m really excited to be setting up this blog. I have done some minor blogging before but feel a bit more determined to blog more regularly about my progression in Senior Leadership and, hopefully, beyond.

In August I took the plunge and got myself a sought-after slot at the SLT camp


I thought it was too good a deal to miss out on. I loved the recent E2BN conference in Wyboston, learnt so much and still need to cascade it back at school. I think this will be even better, by us and for us.

I’ve plumped to sign up for delivering a Teachmeet. I did one of these at the Norwich teachmeet in June and at the E2BN conference. Both times about using iPads in Year 6; I have a feeling this SLT lot might be a bit cleverer than me at iPad use so am going to have a think about my focus.

I am really nervous. Am at a point in my career where I am older than others but don’t seem to have the self-esteem or the oomph in me to get to the next step. I am doing everything I can to be a better SLT and teacher. I am really hoping this camp will help develop my own vision as a leader and be inspired by others and how they do what they do.

Having been SENCO for the last 6 years I am now moving into a new SLT role as curriculum manager and hopefully CPD manager. I am a true believer that CPD can and, mostly, should come from what we know and as a staff we should share our skills and ideas not keep them hidden! This change in my role is scary but really really exciting too. Here I can mention Mike Bostock of 4Matrix, my Challenge 3 complete for SLT camp. 

I have had a lovely summer with my kids and friends and family, but also really enjoyed getting my teeth into some fascinating books about curriculum design. More about those later.

So first blog done, please read me and comment, it will encourage me to keep going!!

Finally a huge thanks to @MrLockyer and @MsFindlater for setting this all up, I can’t wait, even though I am a nervous wreck about it all! So exciting to have @TeacherToolkit there too!

Golden Ticket (The One That made Us What To Get Our Woggles On.)

posted 17 Sep 2013, 12:18 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 17 Sep 2013, 13:59 by Stephen Lockyer ]

A camp – I was in the scouts, I can cope right? The last camp I was on was in 1997 in San Bernardino, California working with children from gang land south central LA, blind children sponsored by a charity and asthma sufferers having ‘a breath of fresh air’ (I know) in the mountains – a truly eclectic mix.

Ok so I think SLT Camp is for me so I decide to get a ticket. The initial batch of 24 sells out like it’s a One Direction concert. Plan B – sit with iPad in hand refreshing every 10 seconds as the time ticked down to 12.00 and make sure I press the ‘male ticket’ button. I do and to my surprise I have 15 minutes to process my order. I’m in. I feel elated, really chuffed, like Charlie Bucket when he found the golden ticket he had been searching for.

So if i’m Charlie does that make @MsFindlater and @mrlockyer the grandparents – the architects of this new adventure? And surely the role of Willy Wonka has to go to @TeacherToolkit taking us through this fabulously free-learning experience on Friday night…

Like Charlie the initial elation from getting a ticket then turned to thoughts of excitement and apprehension of what to expect. No fear ‘you’ve got mail’ was the tweet – all of a sudden there was a list of trials and challenges to complete. A bake-off (forget the grandparents think Paul and Mary!), finding a charity and blogging about the event (√). Then there’s the options – presenter, leader, facilitator, scribe, camp maker or finisher – which to choose?

The event excites me. The unconference where the learning is free form and shared by other senior leaders will be the recharge that is inevitably required in the middle of November.

But what about the dress code? ‘Happy and comfortable’ they say – judging on the creations i’ve seen in the staff room over the years the mind boggles! …should I take my woggle then?

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SLTcamp (The one that made want to pack our wellingtons!)

posted 3 Sep 2013, 15:40 by Sarah Findlater   [ updated 3 Sep 2013, 15:40 by Stephen Lockyer ]

I hate camping with a passion, but I was hooked on attending SLTcamp even before we were informed that there was no actual camping involved in the weekend.  I have only ever been able to attend one TeachMeet and that was the first SLTeachMeet held on a cold December evening last year.  I’d spent the day in London working with teachers on delivering outstanding lessons, so tagged going onto the end of that.  The weather was cold and snowy and I got lost in the dark trying to find my way there from the tube, but it was definitely worth the effort!  I was bowled over by the enthusiasm of the organisers, presenters, teachers and trainers that I met there.  I loved the format and the idea of teachers taking control of their own CPD and creating their own platform to make it happen.  It was a relaxed, hugely enjoyable and very informative evening and I came away with a raft of ideas to think about and try out when I had the chance.  I was determined to attend another one when the opportunity arose.


However, a packed diary throughout the rest of the year meant that I never did get to go to another and was reduced to looking wistfully at presentations that were uploaded online.So when I saw the first tweets about SLTcamp and realised I could go, I cast aside memories of tents being washed away in summer storms, of wet grass cuttings falling on my face as I attempted to sleepof wearing damp and rather mouldy clothes for days on end and of earwigs crawling out of bikini bottoms, and applied for a ticket in the first round.

It promises to be a great weekend and I’m excited to be part of it (and nervous at being one of the Friday night presenters).  Oh, but best of all, there’s not going to be a tent in sight!

Blogges on behalf of the lovely Heather Leatt (@heatherleatt)

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