Posts Tagged ‘Students’

Try Sitting Still as Much as the Average Student Has To

January 19, 2015

chair

If you want to improve the behaviour of the classroom you could do worse than treat your students the same way as you wish to be treated. Just like I find sitting on the mat utterly uncomfortable I try to minimise the amount of time they are on the mat. Just like I can’t sit still for too long before feeling under duress, so too I allow my students to experience active lessons that mixes learning with some movement.

The truth of the matter is that kids are bound to their seats or the mat for way too long. It is unhealthy and bad for the brain. Don’t take my word for it. Read this wonderful piece by pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom:

 

Except for brief periods of getting up and switching classrooms, I’ve been sitting for the past 90 excruciating minutes. I look down at my leg and notice it is bouncing. Great, I think to myself, now I’m fidgeting! I’m doing anything I can to pay attention – even contorting my body into awkward positions to keep from daydreaming. It is useless, I checked out about forty-five minutes ago. I’m no longer registering anything the teacher is saying. I look around the room to see how the children a few decades younger than me are doing.

I’m immersed in a local middle-school classroom environment. I quickly realize I’m not the only one having a hard time paying attention. About 50 percent of the children are fidgeting and most of the remaining children are either slouched in the most unnatural positions imaginable or slumped over their desks. A child suddenly gets up to sharpen their pencil. A few minutes later, another child raises their hand and asks to go to the bathroom. In fact, at least three children have asked to go to the bathroom in the past twenty minutes. I’m mentally exhausted and the day has just begun. I was planning on observing the whole day. I just can’t do it. I decide to leave right after lunch.

There is no way I could tolerate six hours of sitting even just one day, never mind every day – day after day. How on Earth do these children tolerate sitting this long? Well, the short answer is they don’t. Their bodies aren’t designed for extended periods of sitting. In fact, none of our bodies are made to stay sedentary for lengths of time. This lack of movement and unrelenting sitting routine, are wreaking havoc on their bodies and minds. Bodies start to succumb to these unnatural positions and sedentary lifestyle through atrophy of the muscles, tightness of ligaments (where there shouldn’t be tightness), and underdeveloped sensory systems – setting them up for weak bodies, poor posturing, and inefficient sensory processing of the world around them.

If most of the classroom is fidgeting and struggling to even hold their bodies upright, in desperation to stay engaged – this is a really good indicator that they need to move more. In fact, it doesn’t matter how great of a teacher you are. If children have to learn by staying in their seats most of the day, their brains will naturally tune out after a while – wasting the time of everyone.

Are these teachers clueless to the benefits of movement? No. Most teachers know that movement is important. And many would report that they are downright and overwhelmingly frustrated by their inability to let children move more throughout the day. “We are expected to cram more and more information down their throats,” gripes one middle school teacher. “It is insane! We can no longer teach according to what we feel is developmentally appropriate.” Another teacher explains, “due to the high-stakes testing, even project-based learning opportunities are no longer feasible. Too many regulations, not enough time.”

They go on to explain that recess has been lost due to lack of space and time as well as fear that children will get injured. “Too many children were getting hurt,” says a teacher. “Parents were calling and complaining about scrapped knees and elbows – the rest was history.” Even their brief break from instruction during snack time is no longer a reality. These few minutes of freedom are now replaced with a “working snack” in order to pack in a quick vocabulary lesson. Physical education is held only every sixth day, so technically this isn’t even a weekly affair.

The children line up for lunchtime. “Come watch this,” a teacher yells over to me. The children line up in pairs and are told to be quiet. Once everyone is quiet, two teachers (one in front of the line and one in back) escort the children down to the cafeteria. The thought of prison inmates quickly comes to mind, as I watch the children walk silently, side by side down the corridors of the school hallway. I’m told they are to remain quiet and seated throughout the lunch period. “I feel so bad for them,” exclaims the teacher. “They are so ready for down time during lunch, but are still required to sit and be silent!”

Many parents are also becoming increasingly unsatisfied with the lack of recess and movement their children are getting in middle school. One mother states, “Middle school kids in particular are just coming out of the elementary school environment, consisting of multiple breaks throughout the day. These kids are still young, and depending on the district, could be just 10-years-old going into middle school. They are experiencing a great change already in the transition alone. A break during the day is what they need to re-group.”

This same parent contacted the district’s school board members who ultimately make many of the decisions regarding school policies. She also met with the principal and deans and created an online petition consisting of a strong parent community advocating for more movement in school. The results? A brief five to ten-minute walk outdoors after lunch, which the teachers explain is really half a lap around the building and back indoors they go. “It may not be recess–but it’s a good start,” this mother states. “However, I still believe it’s necessary to make it school policy that all kids get a longer break.”

I ask the teachers what kids do when they get home from school. “About 60 percent of them are over-scheduled. The other 40 percent have no one home, so they do what they want – which often relates to playing video games,” a teacher complains. “I’d say we have only a handful of children that go home and find time to play.” Both teachers try to keep homework meaningful and under an hour, knowing kids need time to release after a long day of school.

Even middle-school children need opportunities to play. This past summer, a teacher at one of our TimberNook camps brought along his 12-year-old daughter, Sarah as a “co-counselor.” Sarah was excited about being a counselor alongside a college student for their small group of five children. In the past, she had simply been a camper. However, as soon as the group set out into the deep woods, dispersed, and started to play,  she quickly switched roles. She instantly forgot about her new status and jumped wholeheartedly into the pretend world, alongside the younger children. What took place next, was quite remarkable.

Sarah climbed high onto a fallen log that ascended to the very top of their newly designed teepee, donned with fresh ferns to camouflage their rustic “living quarters.” She wore a brightly colored feathered mask on top of her forehead. “Listen,” she said to the group of children gathered around her. “We need to get ready for the opposing team’s attack.” She took the time to look each of the children in the eye. “You,” she said to one of the bigger kids in the group. “You are now appointed as top commander.” “Julie,” she said to a girl that is known to be one of the fastest runners in the group. “You are going to be our top spy.” She proceeded to roles for each of the children to play.

Her age, strength, and intelligence made her their natural chosen leader and the children respected her decisions. She played just as hard as the other children. She forgot about her new role as co-counselor for the rest of the week, except to occasionally lead a group song or chant during morning meeting. The fun of being a camper and free play trumped all responsibility. She was still a child. She was not ready to give up her right to free play. Who could blame her?

Why do we assume that children don’t need time to move or play once they reach sixth grade, or even fifth grade? They are only children! In fact, I would argue that we all could benefit from opportunities to play, even up through adulthood. Everyone needs downtime. Time to move our bodies. Time to get creative and escape the rigors of reality.

What can we do for our middle-school children? I asked Jessica Lahey, a middle school teacher, contributing writer at The Atlantic, and author of the upcoming book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” to give her opinion on the matter.

“Teachers are often afraid that if they let children move, it will be hard to get them to settle back down again. This shouldn’t stop us from providing them with the necessary movement children need in order to learn. Middle-school children can always benefit from recess! Also, when I taught for Crossroads Academy, we had some great nature trails behind our school through the woods. I would often take my whole English class for walks. I’d give them a topic to ponder and then we’d walk for ten minutes to think about the question. We’d huddle and discuss the topic. Then, I’d throw out another question and we’d start to walk again.”

Jessica explains that this is also true for schools in urban regions. Children can walk to museums or local parks to explore and learn. They can bring along their writing journals and assess the world and culture around them. Learning doesn’t have to be done in a chair. Jessica goes on to tell me that one time, she had her middle-school children practice public speaking by taking turns standing on a small bridge over a rumbling brook. They had to learn to project their voice over the babbling brook in order to be heard by the rest of class. “It was a good practical lesson and there is something about nature that grounds the child, taking away the anxiety that typically comes with public-speaking,” Jessica reports.

All people in decision-making positions for school policies should be required to sit through at least one school day and experience first-hand what is required of children today. Then they will have a better idea of what is appropriate and what isn’t. Then they will start to think about what their decisions mean for real children in real schools. Maybe then, they will begin to value children’s need to move, need to play, and the need to be respected as the human beings that they are.

Middle school-age children need to move – just like everyone else!

 

7 Things a Quiet Student Wishes Their Teacher Knew

August 26, 2014

quiet

A brilliant list courtesy of the extraordinarily talented teenager. Marsha Pinto:

 

1. Being quiet doesn’t make us any less smart

Teachers don’t understand how frustrating it can get reading the comment, ” _____ is a great student but he/she doesn’t participate in class.”

Remember that still waters run deep. I know that some teachers like to base grades on participation, but if you could only hear all the great ideas we have inside our head, you’d learn that we have some great ideas to share. In fact, we are practically masters of brainstorming.

However, it’s difficult for us to master the art of jumping in to a conversation or interrupting. We may not raise our hands as quickly as you want us to or say as much as you wanted us to, but honestly we just like to take our time to process our ideas. Does it even make a difference if we write more than we speak?

2. We are not a problem that you need to solve.

So, we may not have participated on the first day, or the second day or the first three months of school but please don’t keep pestering us about when we’re going to talk. Sometimes there isn’t a reason why we are so quiet, it’s just part of who we are. Many people tend to assume that quiet people are stuck in this quiet prison and need to be rescued so that we can enjoy life. I can assure that this is not always the case. We quiet students are quite content with the way we are… until you start pointing out our faults. We often do not need the “help” you are suggesting, we just need your patience and understanding.

3. The feeling that comes with the hearing the phrase, “Speak up! I can’t hear you.”

It was daunting enough when you caught us off-guard and put us on the spot to answer that question in front of the entire class, so please don’t embarrass us any further. We wish you only knew how much effort we put into taking the initiative to speak up.

If you can’t hear something we said please help us out, come closer and listen carefully to what we are trying to say. Please don’t belittle us in front of a crowd of people because that will do more harm than help.

4. Group projects can get really stressful for us:

Sometimes we’re in a class where we don’t have any friends and other times you assign us to a group of people whom we do not even know. There’s nothing wrong with group work and the benefits are no doubt important for our future, however quiet students are often taken advantage of in group projects. To prevent this from happening, teachers need to assign each person in the group a role, rather than allowing students to assign each other’s role.

5. We are not going to speak when we have nothing to say.

Teachers don’t understand that quiet students believe that it’s not necessary to talk when you have nothing to say. No we are not being rude, it’s just that we believe that there’s no need to force out a couple of words just for the sake of doing so. You have no idea how much time we spend trying to formulate our speech before we actually say it out loud.

We like taking our time to formulate our thoughts rather than rushing to speak. We hope someday you will understand this.

6. We have a personality.

Teachers, we know you don’t see us as the quote and quote ideal student, but if you really came to look beyond our quiet ways you’d come to realize that there’s much more to us than meets the eye. We are writers, dreamers, creators and a lot of other things you may think we never could be. We’d like to love ourselves for who we are and not grow-up to hate ourselves. Do not treat us any differently. We’re normally people who laugh, cry, have crazy obsessions, dislikes and embarrassing moments. Who knows? Maybe we even have more in common with you than you think.

7. Just because we’re quiet, doesn’t’ mean you have to give up on us.

Teachers often assume that it’s not worth talking to or getting to know the quiet students because they don’t have anything to say hence they don’t have potential. However, there are a few teachers, who will take those few extra steps to the back of the classroom to connect with the quiet student rather than judge them from a distance. We quiet students may not say much at first, but trust me we do appreciate you taking the effort.

Teachers and students may not see eye to eye when it comes to most things, but what both sides don’t realize is that they could learn a lot from each other. You may ask yourself, ” What can I learn from someone who hardly speaks?”

Well, you can learn the importance of active listening. A quality slowly going instinct when so many distractions keep us from being in the moment and truly listening to what someone has to say.

Quiet students hope that someday teachers everywhere will be able to appreciate the uniqueness we bring to the classroom and not make assumptions without really getting to know us.

The word “teacher” is a verb, not a noun. Hence this year, I encourage all teachers to break the barriers that separate them and their students and to create an inviting atmosphere where no student should hold back being themselves for fear of rejection. Teachers should aim to bring an accommodating atmosphere to the classroom where both extroverts and introverts can share their ideas and reach their potential without feeling pressurized. Your students might not thank you in- person, or write it in a card or note, but some day they may express their gratitude in an acceptance speech and thank you for giving the wallflower a chance to shine.

 

Click on the link to read Skills That Aren’t Taught But Should Be: #1 People Skills

Click on the link to read Top 10 Most Unusual School Bans

Click on the link to read Rules that Restrict the Teacher and Enslave the Student

Click on the link to read This is What I Think of the No Hugging Rule at Schools

Click on the link to read Political Correctness at School

Click on the link to read What Are We Doing to Our Kids?

November 11, 2012

A funny post by a teacher quite sick of the same old questions.

Why Patience is a Key Quality for a Teacher

October 12, 2012

 

Every teacher has either been on the verge of exploding or fallen over the edge. It’s a highly stressful job where you find your patience tested every day. Without the required level of patience and self-control things can go horribly wrong.

If there is one attribute that teachers should continue to work on it’s an ability to remain calm in a crisis and not let the heat of the moment affect their judgement.

A teacher is facing the sack after being accused of assaulting two of her students by throwing a desk at them.

Kimberly Price admitted to police she ‘saw red’ during the violent confrontation with two 14-year-old girls.

One girl suffered a broken wrist after being hit by the desk after it was allegedly hurled across the classroom.

The other suffered concussion after being punched in the face and choked as Price held her down, she claims.

The 34-year-old eighth grade science teacher was arrested on Tuesday after handing herself in to police in Quincy, Florida.

School chiefs at James A Shanks Middle School have suspended Price indefinitely.

She will be recommended for termination at the next Gadsden County school board meeting, according to Shaia Beckwith-James, spokeswoman for the school district.

The alleged classroom brawl took place a week ago with an arrest affidavit revealing details of the shocking fight.

Price is alleged to have thrown a pen at a student leading to an argument with the 14 year old.

But before the pair came to blows, another student in the class claimed Price said, ‘that little dirty (expletive) ain’t gonna mess up my shirt.’After the pen was thrown students say Price ‘picked up a desk and threw the desk at the victim.’

The Maths Professor who Understands the Importance of Engaging a Class

July 13, 2012

It’s fantastic to see a teacher who understands how important it is to keep the class involved and engaged:

Maths is not usually top of the list when it comes to favourite subjects at school.

But one teacher has found a novel way of getting his pupils attention.

Professor Matthew Weathers starts all his lessons with comical introduction piece – and now his endeavors are causing a stir on YouTube.

In the latest of his videos, the maths genius, who teaches at the Biola University in California, piques the curiosity of students learning about imaginary numbers with an impressive display of computer wizardry.

He creates a double of himself on a computer which appears on a white board behind his desk and then proceeds to chat to his imaginary self.

His class burst into fits of giggles as his double asks him to stop interfering in the lesson, asks him to leave the room and tells him off when he tinkers with the microphone.

The video has already amassed 17,000 YouTube hits.

Mr Weather said: ‘I like asking interesting questions or telling interesting stories but with a smaller class, it’s easier to do tricks on them.

‘I upload my videos on YouTube so my students can see them but then other people start looking at them.’

The Kids Who Bullied Their School Bus Monitor Shouldn’t be Punished: Nelson

June 22, 2012

Excuses, excuses, excuses. Young bullies may be acting out due to their own “need for a sense of significance and belonging“, but they have to accept responsibility for their actions. The children who bullied their school bus monitor acted completely inappropriately and deserve far more than “positive discipline”:

The New York middle school students caught on video taunting and mocking a 68-year-old school bus monitor don’t deserve to be punished, says parenting expert Jane Nelson.

Everyone else in America might be calling for harsh, swift justice to be meted out by both the Greece Central School District and the parents of the kids involved. But not Nelson.

Co-author of two dozen parenting books including the “Positive Discipline” series, Nelson says the traditional means of punishment — yelling, shaming, hitting, grounding, etc. — are counterproductive.

“I think to go after these kids in a punitive way, it just doesn’t help,” she said. Nelson knows that the vast majority of parents will scoff both at that notion — and at her belief that the young bullies are merely acting out due to their own “need for a sense of significance and belonging.”

Schools are Failing Gifted Students

June 21, 2012

Catering for gifted students is a significant challenge for a teacher. Teachers can go dizzy trying to find time with students at both ends of the spectrum, whilst also working to help the rest of the class progress.

I am not surprised that many schools have struggled to properly cater for gifted students:

SCHOOLS are failing the state’s best and brightest students, a damning parliamentary report has found.

A 15-month inquiry has found the education provided to gifted students is often inadequate – sometimes with severe and devastating consequences.

The report, tabled in Parliament today, said up to 85,000 Victorian students fit the category of gifted.

“These students are frequently frustrated and disengaged,” the education and training committee report said.

“And rightfully so: they are being let down by the education system. These neglected students represent our state’s future visionaries and innovators.”

All teachers should be capable of recognising and teaching the gifted, the report said.

Education Minister Martin Dixon welcomed the report and said he “looked forward to responding to it in detail”.

“Our job in education is to engage, excite and extend students,” he said.

This problem is very real, but let’s not forget the difficulties teachers face with an ever-increasing workload and an overcrowded curriculum.

Teacher Tells Graduating Class they are Not Special

June 10, 2012

There has been an overwhelming amount of approval from the general public following teacher David McCullough Jr’s declaration to his graduating class that they are “not exceptional.”

I can understand why people have agreed with his comments and I, like many, found his speech very entertaining. However, I do not agree with the method of reducing people down to a lowly level.

Sure, the standard graduation speech, like many parenting styles, reveal an untruthful optimism that makes the student/child believe they are more than they really are and are bound to achieve more than they really do.

But don’t replace one extreme viewpoint with another.

Sure, the students at a graduating ceremony may not be exceptional, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be. Who is exceptional anyway? Who has the authority to label someone as exceptional?

I believe that everyone in the world has the capacity to live a life of integrity. Is integrity not an exceptional character trait? Not according to David McCullough Jr . I believe everyone has the potential to make others feel better about themselves. Is that an exceptional character trait? Not according to David McCullough Jr .

According to David McCullough Jr.’s standards we should just all replace our arrogance with something that doesn’t seem especially satisfactory:

A Massachusetts high school teacher who told graduating students in a speech that they were nothing special and should learn to come to terms with it has won widespread approval.

The no-nonsense David McCullough Jr told Wellesley High School’s “pampered” and “bubble-wrapped” class of 2012 that they were “not exceptional” at a graduation ceremony last weekend, the NY Daily News reports.

“Capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counselled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again,” Mr McCullough said.

“But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.”

The English teacher illustrated his point mathematically.

“Think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you,” he said.

The son of Pulitzer prize-winning historian David McCullough told the graduates and their parents that around 3.2 million other students would be graduating from over 37,000 US high schools that year.

“That’s 37,000 valedictorians. 37,000 class presidents. 92,000 harmonising altos. 340,000 swaggering jocks”.

The teacher warned that gestures have taken precedence over deeds and that today people sought to accomplish thing for the recognition rather than the pursuit of a goal.

“As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of the Guatemalans,” he said.

Despite his unusual approach the speech was welcomed by students and parents alike who said they appreciated being told “what we need to hear and not necessarily what we wanted to hear,” local newspaper The Swellesley Report commented.

Mr McCullough told FOX News in an interview that parents are often overly protective of their children and this doesn’t help them learn to deal with a tough and competitive world.

“So many of the adults around them — the behaviour of the adults around them — gives them this sort of inflated sense of themselves. And I thought they needed a little context, a little perspective,” he said.

“To send them off into the world with an inflated sense of themselves is doing them no favors.”

I quite liked aspects of the speech and think that it made some very good points expressed with great humour. What I didn’t buy into however, was his version of what life should be like. It seemed almost as unsatisfactory as the things he warned against.

I wish that graduating class well. I hope they grow up to be kind, caring, selfless people who try to enrich the lives of others and resist from judging or ignoring the people around them. I hope they grow up to use their skills for good, be charitable with their time and money and raise children that will do the same.

Is that exceptional? Not according to David McCullough Jr .

5 Tips for Frustrated Teachers

June 6, 2012


If you are finding your job quite challenging lately and you are at a loss to work out how to restore order in the classroom, I hope these tips will prove useful:

1. You Have Nothing to be Ashamed of: Even the best of teachers often struggle to keep control of a classroom. You should not feel deflated if your current crop of children are making your life difficult and testing your patience. This is nothing unusual. Make sure you keep a positive front. Children do not tend to feel empathy for a defeated teacher. On the flip side, they have respect for a teacher that can overcome difficult moments and stay positive, enthusiastic and show a willingness to intoduce new ideas to make things work.

2. What you Teach is not as Important as who you Teach: As much as it can frustrate when you have a lot to cover and so little time to cover it, it is important to note that the most important aspect of your job is to look after the wellbeing of your students. It is perfectly alright to interrupt a maths class for a discussion on bullying or respect. It is also important to realise that whilst Timmy may frustrate you and come to class with a poor attitude, the best thing you can do for him is to plant a seed of positivity. He may leave your class without the skills you have taught, but at least you have let him know that you believe in him and are there for him regardless.

3. If They are not Listening, Perhaps you Should Stop Talking: Teachers often complain about the lack of concentration among their students. This is commonplace, but not always entirely the students’ fault. Teachers often talk too much. From laboured mat sessions to interminable board work, teachers have got to realise that the more they talk, the more the students program themselves to daydream. Teachers have got to spend less time talking to the class and more time going from individual to individual. This is less threatening, more effective and better for charting individual progress. Other ideas include: Group work, games and interactive programs.

4. Stop Threatening: Detentions, suspensions and other punishments are important tools in a teachers toolbox, but boy they can get overused! A teacher’s attitude sets the tone for the classroom. If the “go-to” response is always to threaten and punish, the classroom will be a negative place. If the teacher instead put a privilege on the board (such as extra computer time) and during the class add under the privellege according to behaviour, attitude and work ethic, it sets a very different mood. Instead of feeling watched and judged, the students feel empowered to earn the teacher’s respect and motivated to win the reward.

5. Small Changes Make a Big Difference: When you are in a rut, the desperate part of you wants to change the world in a day. This is impossible. A better approach would be to isolate a goal or two such as; working on an orderly line-up, getting the students to raise hands before asking questions or getting the students to reflect on how they treat each other. These goals may seem insufficient in the grader scheme of an uncontrolled classroom but I assure you small goals can make big changes to the classroom dynamic.

I hope these tips are of use. We all struggle at times to teach effectively. You are not alone!

If You Respect Teachers, Please Stand Up

May 15, 2012

There is a growing hostility against teachers from the Government down, and children are picking up on it. There is little use reinforcing the message that respect for teachers is paramount to students whose own parents openly treat the classroom teacher with disdain. Teachers are not trusted to do their job, are having to write-up ludicrously long and detailed planners to prove they are covering the curriculum and are subjected to a distasteful smear campaign from elements within the educational system looking for someone to blame.

Why should we be surprised if children exploit the lack of respect for teachers within elements of society?

A STUDENT holds a replica pistol to the head of a staff member in the playground – while a Year 9 boy at another school sprays urine on his teacher.

These disturbing scenes are happening at schools across NSW, just two of 218 serious incidents logged during term four last year in reports to the Department of Education and Training.

The reports show teachers being abused, assaulted and sometimes forced to disarm out-of-control students during fights.

One student fight even featured a didgeridoo as an improvised weapon, while in another incident a pupil stole a teacher’s handbag and made off with her car.

Last November, a Year 8 student threatened a teacher with a replica pistol from the drama department at a south coast school. The deputy principal tried to intervene and was abused by the student.

Meanwhile, at an Illawarra school, a Year 9 student urinated into a bottle and sprayed it on a male teacher on playground duty.

Precise details of the schools, students and teachers involved are removed from the reports, which are published by the department with one-term delays.

A department spokesperson said nine in 10 schools did not report a single incident during term four.

“From time to time, incidents affect schools just as they affect society,” the spokesperson said.

Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said the number of violent incidents in schools wasn’t rising but were being noticed and documented “more vigorously”.

“Teenagers tend to be impulsive – all accelerator and no brakes,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.

“Violence as entertainment has desensitised teenagers and made them see violence as a problem solving device.”

He said another factor was teenagers becoming disaffected with rates of family breakdown increasing.


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