Posts Tagged ‘Careers’

The Difficult Challenge that is Starting Your Teaching Career

April 23, 2014


new teacher



I never expected to find it so hard to get my first teaching job and then when I finally achieved it, the challenge was to prove I was worthy of getting a second contract. I can certainly relate to the following account:

Harry Knock’s first term teaching Indonesian and English at Eltham High School might have been his last.

He was hired this year on a single-term contract, replacing another teacher on leave. But fortunately he gained another short-term position so he will remain at Eltham at least for 2014. ”I’d like to have an ongoing job but this is pretty good,” he said.

He is among a group of graduate teachers The Age is following this year, all of whom just completed their first term. Mr Knock said he just focused on doing a good job rather than dwelling on its short-term nature.

So far his experience has shattered the myth that good teachers can start at 9am and leave work behind six hours later. He regularly stayed late and worked weekends.

”I guess I expected it to be fast-paced but I didn’t expect to be exhausted every week.”

Eltham principal Vincent Sicari was still sufficiently impressed when Mr Knock sat the interview for his job. ”To his credit he really outshone the other applicants,” Mr Sicari said. ”He’s a first-year teacher so he obviously still needs some support to establish himself in the profession but he’s a very committed young man.”

About 45 per cent of graduate teachers start on short-term contracts, according to the Australian Education Union.

The union’s state president, Meredith Peace, said short-term work placed considerable strain on graduate teachers. ”When you’re trying to attract people into the profession, security of employment is very important,” she said. ”I think it’s very distracting, particularly towards the end of the school year. Contracts tend to be for 12 months.” These teachers started their careers at a contentious time. The federal government launched a review of teacher training and Education Minister Christopher Pyne has promised to lift the ”quality, professionalism and status” of teaching.

Bronwyn Aitken said her university training was good. But her first term teaching home economics and health at Gladstone Park Secondary College revealed the limitations of a degree, despite the work experience placements.

”You’re in someone else’s classroom when you’re in training,” she said. ”You can’t establish the relationships you need … until you’re on your own.”

At The Lakes South Morang P-9 School Naomi Harris had her own grade 6 classes but also worked in teams with other teachers.

She previously completed a placement at the school but found teaching was a ”big learning curve”. She has also learnt some teachers have a special ”presence” in the classroom that comes with years spent on the job.

Tom Davis, 22, said the support of experienced colleagues and his degree would guide him through his first year at Montmorency South Primary School.

Click on the link to read Getting Your Teacher Fired Has Become a Popular Sport

Click on the link to read Tips for Dealing With Negative Feedback

Click on the link to read Guess What Percentage of Teachers Considered Quitting this Year

Click on the link to read The Classroom Shouldn’t be a War Zone for Our Teachers

Click on the link to read Remember When Teachers Were Shown Respect? (Video)

Click on the link to read If You Think Teaching is so Easy You Should Try it for Yourself

Different Professions, Same Experiences

September 5, 2012

It’s interesting how teachers often complain as if their problems and challenges are completely unique.

Some point out that they take their work home unlike many other professions.

Others talk about the low wages and hostile work environment.

Many talk about the troubles they have from bullying parents.

In truth, there are a myriad of different professions that struggle with similar problems to that of a teacher. They may not be similar occupations on the surface, but they can have almost identical constraints.

I recently had the pleasure of reading Vadim Chelom’s brilliant new book, Vet Bites Dog. Vadim is a veterinarian and fellow blogger who has a keen interest in educational affairs. He used his expertise to design a program for teachers to help instruct children about dog safety practices. In Vet Bites Dog, a book about his experiences working at a not-for-profit animal clinic, Chelom writes the following:

I take another deep breath. 8PM is just around the corner. People often say that being a veterinarian must be hard because our patients can’t talk to us. The truth is, it’s not our patients which make our work a challenge. More often than not it’s the animal on the other end of the lead. Learning to treat pets is easy. Learning to ‘treat’ their owners is what takes years of practice, boundless patience and expert negotiation skills.

Sounds familiar to the plight of a teacher?

I think it’s important to realise that teaching has it’s unique issues and challenges, but essentially all job with deadlines, paperwork, bosses, expectations and key performance indicators are distinctly similar in many ways.

I urge you to grab a copy of Dr. Chelom’s book. It’s hilarious, revealing and brilliantly written. You may, like me, realise you have much more in common with a vet than had previously thought.

Click on the link to read If Teachers Were Paid More I Wouldn’t Have Become One

Preparing Students for the Real World

December 2, 2011

Sometimes I find it hard to decide whether to expose my students to the realities of the real world or protect them from disappointment.

Never is the conundrum stronger than when it comes to the issue of competition in the classroom.

Society loves to paint clear labels. Winners and losers, successful and unsuccessful, popular and unpopular, beautiful and ugly. The pressures that these labels bring is certainly prevalent in the classroom and is a great cause of anxiety among the students. No matter how tactful the teacher can be, the students are aware that they are graded, levelled and streamed, and with the help of their parents, take a strong interest as to where they stand in the pecking order.

There are many teachers who use competition as a motivating force. Everything from star charts and games to public assessments and evaluations are intended to get students to ignore the often mind numblingly boring lesson presentation and instead, concentrate on beating their fellow classmates.

There are students that excel when offered this incentive. These students love the modern trend of standardised testing.  For them, it’s an opportunity to show how dominant they are over their peers.

But then there’s the student that collapses in a heap under the threatening and potentially confidence sapping pressures of being compared to others. These students watch their fellow classmates reading at level 30 while they are in the late teens and decide that they hate reading and have no interest in practicing or improving.  These students claim that they are stupid, so what is the point.

I was a student who struggled to cope in an environment of “dog eat dog” competition.  My classmates left me in my wake as I struggled with the labels that came with constant comparison and the humiliation of being repeatedly streamed in the bottom group. That is why I modify my teaching to cater for students sick of the constant intrusion of grades in education.

When testing the kids, I don’t give them a letter or number grade, instead I chose to give them clear feedback on skills they performed well in and found challenging.  This not only prevents students from comparing themselves to others, but also provides clear feedback on what they can do and what skills require further practise.

The question is, if real world experiences feature competition, comparisons, labels and winners and losers, am I protecting my students from experiences they need to learn? Eventually they will need to compete against others for jobs and promotions. If I protect them from real life situations am I not doing them a disservice?

Another issue I have on this topic is that I don’t approve of many of the behaviours prevalent in the “real world”.  Just because there is bullying, gossiping, bad manners and selfishness outside my classroom doesn’t mean that I will stand for it in my classroom. At some point I want to ignore what goes on outside the four walls of my classroom and instead, help my students change the rules of society rather than simply prepare them for it.

The Stigma of the School Dropout is Sometimes Unfair

November 28, 2011

For some reason, society seems to have an issue with “dropouts” who choose a trade over completing high school.  Whilst I am not in favour of someone chosing to drop out without a legitimate Plan B, I highly respect people who make the choice to become plumbers, builders and electricians, even when it’s at the expense of finishing high school.

Australia’s Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is right to push for the opening of trade schools in preference to virtually paying students off for completing school. School and University is not for everyone. There are teenagers much more adept at taking on a practical trade than writing essays, working through trigonometry problems and making sense of chemistry.

Paying students just to finish school (it’s the parents that get the money) achieves a lot less than it sounds. Often it doesn’t translate into higher education training and it doesn’t guarantee that there will be marked differences in the takeup of the dole.

Mr Abbott wants to investigate a return to the former Coalition Government’s scheme for technical high schools and school-based apprenticeships.

Mr Abbott declined to endorse a Labor Government election promise to pay families $4000 to help keep teenagers in school longer, saying the spending would have to be appropriately targeted.

“The other point I want to make is that it’s all very well keeping kids at school past year 10 but they’ve got to be the right kids being kept at school past year 10,” Mr Abbott told Sydney radio 2UE.

“A lot of kids would probably be better off in the long run leaving school at year 10 and getting an apprenticeship rather than staying on doing an academic or quasi-academic time at school when in the end it’s the practical trades that we need.

“I mean, one of the great initiatives of the Howard Government was to try to foster these school based apprenticeships to try to get back to a considerable extent towards, if you like, technical high schools.

“And I guess I’d want to carefully study this and make sure that the right kids are getting the money and that we really were keeping the right kids at school because if you’ve got the wrong kids at school it can end up like a glorified occupational therapy basically.”

He told reporters later: “It’s important that some kids stay at school and go on to university, it’s also important that other kids get a good technical education.”

I don’t like the “pigeonhole” mentality society seems to employ. Such thinking makes it hard for people to take different routes and make changes that are right for them. The popular opinion isn’t always the right one for the individual. All countries need active and educated members of society, but they also need good tradespeople.
School is not for everyone. If you have a passion for a trade, don’t hesitate, go for it!

Study: Teachers Are Overpaid

November 3, 2011

I am not writing this in the guise of a victim.  I did not become a teacher for the money, nor do I ever expect to be paid a great deal more than I am currently getting.  But let’s not fool ourselves here.  Teachers are not overpaid.  To call them overpaid
is absolutely ludicrous!

Despite the public perception that public school teachers in general are underpaid, Jason Richwine, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation and co-author of “Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers,” says “the reality is that it’s just not true. There’s no way to look at the data and conclude that they are underpaid. They are certainly paid more than they can get if they work in the private sector…” In fact, Richwine found that “public-school teachers receive compensation about 52% higher than their skills would otherwise garner in the private sector.”

When working out how much a teacher is making an hour the following assumptions are normally made:

  • Teachers work a 9 to 5 job – This is certainly not true.  Unlike many professions a teacher’s job is not done at the end of the workday.  We have to take our essays and tests home with us.  We have to write reports.  We are also required to do our planning in our own time.
  • Teachers get generous holidays – Whilst this is essentially true, many fail to realise the amount of work we do during the holidays.  From setting up the classroom, attending handover meetings and planning, much of my vacation time is dedicated to preparing for the following term or year.  In the holidays, I write-up yearly planners, term planners, literacy planners, numeracy planners and integrated unit planners.  Most professionals would hate to do any job related work over their vacation time.  We have no choice.
  • Teaching is a fairly undemanding profession – Teaching is known to be an exceptionally stressful job with the highest reported rate of bullying of any profession.  Teachers can be bullied by a number of sources; from parents, students, bosses, administrators to fellow colleagues.

You can’t afford to give us a pay rise? Fine.  But don’t you dare call us overpaid!

I’m Glad I’m a Teacher and Not a Parking Inspector

October 31, 2011

Today I was fined by a parking officer for parking in a permit zone. I had only left my car for a few minutes, and clearly that’s all it takes.

On my way back from the shops I noticed a parking inspector processing a ticket by my car. I asked him what I did wrong. I pointed out the 1 hour parking sign. He pointed to another small sign among others that notified those with good eyesight that the spot was a permit zone on weekends but fine during the week.

I told him that I was only gone for a second and that I had made an innocent mistake. He didn’t pay attention. My daughter cried sensing something was wrong and becoming unsettled by the man’s presence. The man ignored her and kept on typing.

$75 – that’s what the tiny mistake cost me!

I realise that the man was doing his job. He probably has a wife and family to take care of and bills to pay. I don’t blame him for his actions or diminish his right to take on this job.

But ultimately, I’m so glad that I am a teacher and not a parking officer.

Parking officers serve no real value to the community. They are employed by council workers who should have enough revenue to waste through our overpriced rates. But no, through parking infringements, they have another steam of revenue they can waste in good measure.

Nobody is glad to see a parking inspector walking around. Nobody goes to lengths to welcome them or engage in small talk. Their job is to prey on people’s mistake and slug for an inordinate amount of money.

Teaching can be so much more than that. We can represent all that’s positive about this world. We can be mentors and role models. We can help children grow to reach their potential.

Unfortunately, we can also do a lot of damage. If we are not good at our job or our heart isn’t in it, we can be the manifestation of what is wrong with this world.

That’s the great challenge for teachers. To be the polar opposite of a parking inspector.

Fired For Challenging an Imperfect System

August 9, 2011

The scariest thing about education today is not that it doesn’t seem to be nearly effective enough, but that those that challenge conventions and think outside the square get castigated for their opinions.

I have a great deal of respect for teachers that do things differently, whether their methods work or not.  Experimentation and ongoing reflection is necessary at a time when curriculums all over the world seem stale and soulless.

Firing a teacher for daring to point out the flaws in our system is not acceptable:

New York City teaching fellow Alice McIntosh is fighting for her job at a District 75 school in the Bronx after receiving unsatisfactory ratings from her supervisor – even though she was given glowing recommendations from parents and peers after her second year of teaching.

“Ms. McIntosh should have gotten an award,” said Theresa Smith, 47, whose daughter Vernisha suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Instead, the experienced educator was fired, she said.

Assistant principal William Green, who gave McIntosh satisfactory ratings during the 2009-10 school year at P10X in Throgs Neck, deemed she was unfit to teach this past school year.

“I asked, ‘Why are you U-rating me?'” McIntosh recalled. “[Green] said, ‘I’m not going to get into that right now. I would suggest in your next job that you be more of a team player.'”

A city Department of Education spokeswoman said she could not comment because she was unable to reach Green.

So what did she get fired for?  Merely pointing out the bleeding obvious:
McIntosh said that, as a literacy teacher at the special-needs school, she openly challenged the curriculum and used books she thought were less outdated.

According to observations during the 2010-11 year by Green, her methods appeared to work.

“The teacher activates prior knowledge and incorporates it into the new lesson…. The teacher conducts an excellent development of lesson with clear expectations,” one review reveals.

But that same review was used as a basis for her poor performance, which charges she flunked in “planning and preparation of work” and “control of class.”

Green also cited grounds for the dismal ratings from the 2009-10 school year – when McIntosh received glowing reviews.

It appears that Ms.McIntosh’s great crime was that she was prepared to do things differently in a system where conformity is expected and change is frowned upon.  You are not considered a team player if you are critical or ignore traditions.

This is what is going to be the result of the stinking teacher evaluations.  Teachers who conform and play it safe will keep their jobs, while teachers who challenge the system and try new things will be given a cardboard box to collect their belongings.

7 Strategies for Dealing With Office Politics

July 26, 2011

The school staff room, like any other office environment, can pose challenges when it comes to dealing with colleagues.  Lawrence Cheok gives 7 fantastic strategies for overcoming  office politics and managing a hostile or competitive work environment.


The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers. Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…


When conflicts happens, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins. It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.


At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests. Bitching and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do bitching really accomplish? In most instances, none.

Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation – your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints. You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome, but you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.


In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position. All at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.


In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the work place.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they habour ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone.

Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.


The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept. Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.


As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him. Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agree resolution and not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice, but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace. Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

It’s Not Career Advice that 10 Year-Olds Need

July 21, 2011

Whilst Simon Hughes’ call for Primary schools to offer career advice has some basic merit, it deviates from the most important needs of a primary student.

Youngsters will be urged to start thinking about their careers from the age of ten under plans unveiled today by the Coalition’s education access czar.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, wants primary schools to start giving career counselling to pupils.

Mr Hughes said: ‘It is never too early for people to start thinking about future careers and educational opportunities.

‘Children in their last year of primary school can be inspired, and can form their first clear impressions of the world of work and further study.’

Primary schools will have to host career advice sessions with industry experts  and parents to discuss what qualifications are needed.

He hopes the move will make youngsters start thinking about university before they even start secondary school. Mr Hughes said: ‘The message I have heard from young people around the country is clear.

‘We need better careers advice, starting early, and with parents as well as students given better information about going to university.

If you give students the encouragement and support to help them see where their qualities lie, what they are good at and how they can use those skills to contribute to a classroom, school and society you never need to worry about career advice.  The reason why so many students seem aimless and unsure of their future is because not enough time and energy has been put into their strengths and too much time tends to be focussed on their weaknesses.
By Grade 6 students seem to be aware of where they are academically, what they struggle to do well and how they are regarded by teachers and fellow students.  What they might not be aware of is that there is so much more than academics in the makeup of a person.  There is their personality, creativity, street smarts and leadership skills.  Teachers must understand the strengths of all their students and praise them accordingly.
A student who is aware of what they love to do, where their talents lie and how they can use those skills and traits to contribute to society never need worry about career advice.  Not at 10 years old anyway.

Our Children Must be Taught About Society’s Lie

March 18, 2011

It’s time to correct the mistakes of my generation by ensuring that our children aren’t given the same misleading message.  For too long society has fed our young a big, destructive lie.  For too long that lie has been allowed to take over our lives, muddy our relationships and bring out the worst in people.

It’s time to revisit the following question and change the answer:

What is success?

  • Success in Not Dependant on Money – For too long we have been programmed to look at wealthy people as successful.  This is simply unfair.  No matter how you structure a democratic society, there will always be a very small percentage of wealthy people.  Are we saying that only 5% of our population are going to be successful?  Surely success is something obtainable to a broader group of people?  We have seen how easily wealthy people lose their wealth.  We have also seen how dishonestly some wealthy people obtain their wealth.  Is this the trademark of success?  Surely not.  We must tell our young that a wealthy person is someone who can feed and clothe their family.  Not someone with cars they don’t drive and a holiday home only lived in for a few weeks during the summer.


  • Success is Not Dependant on Appearance – This one really upsets me.  It is a sentiment which allows the advertising agency to take control of our self-esteem, flog us products that don’t work and make perfectly “normal” and healthy people feel ugly.  By setting up a model of beauty that is impossible for 95% of society to ever achieve is tragic!  The current model of how we should look goes against the natural aging and metabolic process of the body.  It says that if you have wrinkles, freckles, dimples, big ears, a bent nose, cellulite, small breast or a certain complexion you are not beautiful.  Gone are the days where we can even say “Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder”, because this model of beauty has infiltrated and brainwashed the beholder.  Is it alright to look your best?  Sure.  Is it beneficial to look after yourself? Absolutely!  But an obsession with looks, like every other obsession is destructive.  Even those that are blessed with such looks soon find out that it doesn’t last forever, and when it goes, they often haven’t developed other parts to their character to fall back on.  I personally, don’t believe in forcing the media and advertisers to change their policy.  I believe in advocating a change of perspective starting from parents and supported by teachers.  We must redefine beauty and then show our children that our appearance has nothing at all to do with success.


  • Success is Not Dependant on a Title – Not everyone can win an Oscar or become a President, and nor should they to feel successful.  For too long society has peddled the belief that doctors and lawyers are successful while taxi drivers and house painters are not.  A taxi cab driver might not sound like a successful profession on face value.  But that same taxi driver has a crucial role to play.  They help the disabled and the aged, are crucial in keeping intoxicated people off the roads and protect vulnerable people from walking the streets and taking the trains late at night.  A house painter may seem like an ordinary profession, but have you ever looked at the difference a bright, well-painted room makes to a persons mood and outlook?  All jobs have a critical role to play in making life more enjoyable regardless of the pay involved.  We must tell our children and students that it’s not what you do that determines your success it’s how you do it.

So what is the measure of success?  If it has nothing to do with a person’s level of wealth, appearance or job description, what does success look like?  I prescribe to the following checklist:

Are you a good person?  Do you treat others with respect and show empathy and concern? Do you avoid speaking disparagingly about others (particularly behind people s backs)?  Do you refrain from spreading rumours about others?

Are you patient?  Do you allow others to have different views and opinions?

Do you follow the law? Are you truthful?  Are you fair in business?

Are you a good parent? Do you put your children first?  Do you spend enough time with them and take an interest in their passions?

Are you a good husband/wife/partner?  Do you accept your spouse for who they are?  Do you avoid putting down or heaping guilty on your partner?

My checklist isn’t dependant on characteristics that are only obtainable by a miniscule proportion of society.  Instead it reinforces my belief that all of society can be successful regardless of background or job description.  That’s why I think that an educator has an even more important job than simply covering the curriculum.  We get the chance to instill in our students a sense of self, what they can achieve, and how they can use their unique qualities and skills to positively affect the world.

I usually don’t impart my personal beliefs on my students.  I believe that teachers should allow their students the opportunity to form their own beliefs.  But on this subject, I gladly make an exception.

I will not hear it that only some of my students can achieve success. While I have them, I will continue to fight for their right to a self-esteem, an opportunity to claim “real success” and a an awareness of society’s lie about what success is.


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