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More about teachers

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Dani
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More about teachers

Postby Dani » Wed May 07, 2003 4:11 pm

The G.A.S. voting thread shifted a bit into conversation about good teaching.... and lack thereof. I thought I'd shift that thread to a new heading and plop it here to post my query. I think we all agree that folks who take a class in anything, then hang out their teaching shingle the next weekend do more harm than good in the long run. But, how do you feel about a teacher's need for demonstrated ability? I ask this because I know exceptionally good teachers who are abysmally bad artitsts.... or don't make art at all! Is it really necessary to be good at what you teach? If so, we'd have many fewer good teachers than we do, IMPO, and we're short of them already! (On the flip side of that coin, there are some dynamite artists who are ghastly teachers....) Any comments?

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Postby Brad Walker » Wed May 07, 2003 5:17 pm

The idea that we need better teachers isn't a new one -- Lundstrom's first book (which Bullseye wrote) has an appendix on teaching a basic fusing course. And there are lots of other books with projects and tutorials geared toward the beginner.

But the problem is a tough one to solve. Consider Brock's recipe for a good teacher -- that you must take a lot of courses, work in your studio for years, and develop your own voice all before you can teach. That's cerrtainly one way to get there, but it can't possibly be the only way.

For starters, as Dani mentions, there are people who meet those criteria but who are terrible teachers (just as there are people who don't meet the criteria but who are good teachers). There are even people who've been teaching for years who are terrible teachers. Just being experienced or a great artist doesn't make you a decent teacher.

But even if it did, we'd still have a problem. Right now, with the recent growth of kiln-forming, there is far much more demand for instruction than there are good instructors. Much of that demand is local, and consists of people who don't travel for instruction and who aren't willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for basic courses in fusing and slumping. The needs of these people for basic, inexpensive instruction are often addressed by local studios and retailers. Many of these instructors are relatively new to fusing. Sometimes they do a good job and sometimes they don't, but it's important to realize that without their efforts many beginners would receive no education at all.

I don't have an answer to this dilemma, but I'm positive that it's going to take more than simply getting professional artists to take up the classroom. I hope that Bullseye's conference helps point us all in the right direction, and would love to hear other thoughts on this very important issue.

Bert Weiss
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Re: More about teachers

Postby Bert Weiss » Wed May 07, 2003 6:10 pm

Dani wrote:The G.A.S. voting thread shifted a bit into conversation about good teaching.... and lack thereof. I thought I'd shift that thread to a new heading and plop it here to post my query. I think we all agree that folks who take a class in anything, then hang out their teaching shingle the next weekend do more harm than good in the long run. But, how do you feel about a teacher's need for demonstrated ability? I ask this because I know exceptionally good teachers who are abysmally bad artitsts.... or don't make art at all! Is it really necessary to be good at what you teach? If so, we'd have many fewer good teachers than we do, IMPO, and we're short of them already! (On the flip side of that coin, there are some dynamite artists who are ghastly teachers....) Any comments?


Dani

The whole thing is gray area. I think that I am a better teacher than I am an artist. I successfully taught a class in kiln casting after I had only one class with an unsuccessful casting.

What made me a good teacher was in part that I have a technical understanding of what we are trying to do and was able to communicate that to my students. Even more important was the fact that I was able to get across the joy of stepping in to the experimental zone, using a basic understanding of the materials, and taking some risks. When our risks paid off everybody was thrilled.

My class at Pilchuck took risks and the project failed. I was still inspired to keep trying and work out the process.

In my opinion the bottom common demoninator that is necessary is a technical understanding of how glass behaves when heated above the strain point. If you don't understand the basics, you can not teach others to have a successful experience doing anything other than exactly following a narrow set of instructions. Our goal as teachers is to teach people how to think in the language of heated glass. I learned this from Lundstrom. You can learn this from Walker.

So as I think about it, a bad teacher teaches steps one through ten without giving the students an understanding of why those steps were devised. Unless you understand why, will not be able to deviate and have a successful experience.
Bert

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Dani
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Postby Dani » Wed May 07, 2003 7:39 pm

I'm not sure I agree with that, Bert. That's like saying I need to know how to program a computer to use one. I don't think I need to be a scientist to be a good glass artist.... it's probably more useful for me to be a good designer and craftsman. I can take the fusing and annealing instructions on faith based on experience or imparted information. One thing I've learned as a teacher is that 90% of a class zones out if the information presented becomes too technical. I think a certain degree of science is important... but other aspects like good design, color theory, and even history are more important to the end-product when dealing with the arts and crafts.

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Postby Paul Housberg » Wed May 07, 2003 9:01 pm

It occurs to me that even a great teacher will not inspire a poor student, i.e.: someone who is not open to learning. And a good student will learn at least something even from a poor teacher. Those with vision are all autodidacts anyway.
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Bert Weiss
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Postby Bert Weiss » Wed May 07, 2003 10:15 pm

Dani wrote:I'm not sure I agree with that, Bert. That's like saying I need to know how to program a computer to use one. I don't think I need to be a scientist to be a good glass artist.... it's probably more useful for me to be a good designer and craftsman. I can take the fusing and annealing instructions on faith based on experience or imparted information. One thing I've learned as a teacher is that 90% of a class zones out if the information presented becomes too technical. I think a certain degree of science is important... but other aspects like good design, color theory, and even history are more important to the end-product when dealing with the arts and crafts.


Dani

I think you misinterpreted what I was trying to say. I don't have a scientific background myself. What I know, I read in Lundstrom. He explained the basics about annealing and expansion. If you have no clue about those issues you can't design a technique.

A total newbie has zero clue that you can't fuse any 2 glasses together and shut the kiln off. Without some technical understanding one will try and do that kind of stuff. Nothing will make a student tune in to those issues faster than failure though. I think that our goal as teachers is to guide the student through a process that is successful and then try and get them to understand why it worked. I'm sure that once at home 100% of glass students will open a kiln before it is ready and experience that sound.
Bert



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Ron Coleman
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Postby Ron Coleman » Wed May 07, 2003 10:24 pm

I think the whole teaching process is about providing students with the necessary tools to learn. A short 1 or 2 day glass fusing glass isn't going to develop the artistic skills of a student to any measureable degree.

To me the teaching process has to start with the mechanics of glass fusing. The basics are the order of the day for anyone to succeed. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are taught to all students as bacis tools for the entire learning process of life. For a glass fusing student to learn, the only way is starting at the beginning.

My own self taught fusing skills included many hours of reading anything I could get my hands on and then off to the shop to pop a piece of glass in the kiln. And when the first piece came out with kiln wash stuck on the back, it was back to reading to see how to fix the problem.

During the whole learning process, the art part of fusing was in the back of my mine but my main objective was to get a piece out of the kiln free of bubbles, kiln wash and not covered with devit. Once I came to grips with the mechanics and all the possible problems, I started to develop the confidence needed to move to the next step.

No student is going to learn the whole process in an afternoon and their feelings may be that of total confusion at the end of the day. But they should be exposed to as much of the process as possible. The lack of instruction and information shouldn't be a reason to fail.

To me, the first class should be taught by the best teachers, ones that know the fusing process inside and out and ones that know how to teach. I'm not saying they have to be the best artists, but they need to know fusing.

my 2¢ worth

Ron

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Cynthia

Postby Cynthia » Thu May 08, 2003 12:28 am

We all learn differently and we are all inspired by different aspects of the process. To be good at kiln forming we need to be well versed in the technical arts as well as the visual arts of the process. One of the reasons I think that this work floats my boat is that it is a wonderful marriage of art and science.

A good teacher should be one that has a solid grasp of the physics of the work...what can and can't be done (theoretically). The exceptional teacher also fosters ones artistic voice. So many of the instructors out there teaching fusing are simply good, or perhaps even exceptional technicians, yet not so well versed or educated in the visual arts, or are not visually literate at all.

I feel you must be able to master the medium in terms of the physics, but what makes a really valuable teacher is one who can give you the mechanics as well as the design and art education so that you can formally make the statement you desire to make...but the artistry comes later...after you master the medium.

That doesn't mean that there isn't a place in the market for the technicians, or those that aren't art educated... In fact, I believe they are the best educators for beginning kiln work. The next step, after you have an understanding of the technical aspects of kiln work would be to seek out those who are well versed in technique as well as having an understanding of, and can educate you about, design basics and artistic techniques.

Art literacy isn't rocket science, it's just another form of literacy, and if we are working in a visual medium, we ought to (if that's our desire) take the opportunity to learn how to create strong and sound visual designs. We learn the structure of sentences and what verbs and nouns and participles are...why not learn what balance, color, line and focal points are all about as well as the properties of glass?

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Postby Sandpiper » Thu May 08, 2003 9:11 am

Okay, my thoughts on teaching. I am a teacher by trade. I've taught high school, middle school, swimming, scuba diving, etc. Over the years I've discovered something. No matter how good you are at your subject, if you can't "read" your students, you're a failure. My stained glass teacher was terrible. She was an artist. She was technically good, but she could not impart knowledge. For one thing, her arrogance got in the way. I see this a lot. She would rattle off things, sound important, and never once glance at her students faces. If she did, she would have noticed that none of use had a clue what to do.

In my years of teaching scuba, I trained several instructor candidates. Two of these people were super divers, and they were scientist. They knew physics hands down. They would lecture, and their lectures were technically perfect. The students would come to me later and ask what they were talking about.

So what is my point? Anyone who is considering teaching anything, needs several things. They need to know their subject. They need to practice their craft, and they need to take some time to learn to teach. Teaching is an art. It requires talent. Great teachers are naturally gifted. Those who aren't naturally gifted need to watch great teachers and find out how they tune in with their students. If you can't read your students, you can't teach.

Also, for those of you who are teaching, one clue. Find three different ways to say the same thing. My scuba instructor candidates always explained things the same way. If a student asked a question, they would just explain the answer the same way they did the first time. The student didn't get it the first time, the second time, or the third time. It wasn't the student's problem; it was the instructor's. Sometimes a person needs to hear the answer several times several different ways before they can come to an understanding. Think teenager here!!!

I hope I didn't bore anyone, and I hope I was relevant.
Sandpiper

Cynthia

Postby Cynthia » Thu May 08, 2003 11:59 am

Sandpiper wrote:Okay, my thoughts on teaching. I am a teacher by trade...Over the years I've discovered something. No matter how good you are at your subject, if you can't "read" your students, you're a failure...

So what is my point? Anyone who is considering teaching anything, needs several things. They need to know their subject. They need to practice their craft, and they need to take some time to learn to teach. Teaching is an art. It requires talent. Great teachers are naturally gifted. Those who aren't naturally gifted need to watch great teachers and find out how they tune in with their students. If you can't read your students, you can't teach.

Also, for those of you who are teaching, one clue. Find three different ways to say the same thing...If a student asked a question, they would just explain the answer the same way they did the first time. The student didn't get it the first time, the second time, or the third time. It wasn't the student's problem; it was the instructor's.

I hope I didn't bore anyone, and I hope I was relevant.
Sandpiper


Teaching me algebra was like trying to teach a dog how to be a cat until I got the teacher you just described (the good one). He would explain a problem. I would be lost. He would go at it a different way. I would be lost. He would come at it again from yet another angle...until the light bulb went on. This was in college and this guy is one of a handful of educators that I remember like he was my first love. He didn't give up on me or treat me like I was dumb as dirt, he just kept trying to find the one way in which I could relate to the information he had to impart...and he always found that way.

I think you were very relevant in that a good teacher must be skilled in the art of teaching as well as the art and science of what they teach.

Thanks for making that distinction.

Sandpiper
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Postby Sandpiper » Thu May 08, 2003 12:50 pm

Now if I can be as good at glass as I am at teaching I would be a very happy person :D :D :D
Sandpiper

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Postby JimH » Thu May 08, 2003 3:52 pm

Kind of on subject -- Have taken three classes over the last 18 months. One was a class in a dedicated teaching studio by the owner/artist. Very professional and well set up to teach. The class went very well - well paced and no lost motion or time -- learned a LOT.
Second class was in a private studio with a outside, well known teacher. Owner had had classes there before and was very well set up and a GREAT host. The teachers ( two) knew the subject matter and had done it many times - wonder if to many times. One very pleasent and one kinda not. Ran out of material to teach before class was to be over.
Third was in a private studio with a hired instructor. Horrible conditions. Dirty, unkept, unplanned and just not ready for classes. Owner did not have items for handouts or demo ready before hand. Instructor did not agree with owner on anything and was way out of date with latest improvements ( like last 20 years)

SO = my new rules for taking classes--
1. Only in home or private studio if has had classes before and can convince me that they are organised for classes.
2. Only with professional teachers that are up to date in field. Find out how long and how recent experience is.
3. Ask a LOT more questions before signing up.

Just my experiences
Jim

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Postby Jackie Beckman » Thu May 08, 2003 9:22 pm

Jim brings up a point that has been raised in the past, but I don't know that we ever have, or could, come up with a solution . Unless you are taking a private one-on-one class, someone is going to be done first, and someone is going to be done last. There is obviously nothing wrong with being either student, but the ones who get done first are tapping their fingers for something to do next, and the one who finishes last feels as though they are holding everyone up and rushing to finish.

Although I really don't know what any instructor could do to change the fact that someone is always going to be done first, I do know that as a student, I try to take advantage of this time. Much of what I've taken away from the classes I've attended has been from visiting with the other students. Although I'm rarely done first, when I do have time to kill, I enjoy seeing all the different takes on one set of instructions, talking with the others about what we do, have tried, have had success with, or failed with. Classes are a rare opportunity to not only learn from the instructors, but to learn from one another. And I have to say - it's a great chance to make friends that you have something in common with. Some of my dearest friendships have been fostered during the few classes I've attended or hosted.

It just may be easier for us as students to resolve this issue than for the instructors, in my opinion, by us taking advantage of the time we have to spend with others who share our intrests.

By the way - Hi there Jim! and my best to Sue. :D

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know thy students ?

Postby Monica » Thu May 08, 2003 10:20 pm

What makes a good student ?
There is as much variation in pupil ability as there is in instructors. I teach beginners & intermediates and find a very wide range of student desires. If they own a kiln (or plan to purchase), then they want technical info. otherwise many are not interested in the "details". They take the class to learn a new technique and have their project fired. Some intermediates are interested in art and design, but others are bored or intimidated by anything that's not pictorial. Besides Jackie's point about the difficulty of pacing the class, choosing subject matter is also very diificult for similar reasons.

I often teach a half day class in a facility with no kiln or equipment, where the burden is on the instructor to creatively teach "fusing". I give the most rudimentary instruction and just let students discover for themselves what a blast it is to make something out of glass. They don't learn enough in that first class to know how to fuse on their own, but they get a chance to explore a new medium, and decide if they want to know more. By some criteria mentioned in other posts, I would fall into the "bad instructor" category, for merely letting students "play" instead of imparting technical/art info. Isn't "play" part of what we all love about our artwork ?

What makes a "bad' instructor ?
For those of you who have had "bad" instructors:
(1) I have "off" days when a class just doesn't go right and I am not so good at teaching (2) some students would say I'm not a good instructor because it is virtually impossible to please everyone - students sometimes show up with expectations that having nothing to do with the instructor. (3) I've heard some complain about instructors who "only teach for the money"...I could probably make more $ investing the equivalent hours in my studio, but I'd be there alone instead of in a room full of students interested in talking about glass.

If I can teach a few people to experiment, push their personal envelope of creativity, and enrich the medium, then I am a successful teacher.

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Postby Linda Reed » Fri May 09, 2003 1:39 am

Sandpiper wrote:Okay, my thoughts on teaching. I am a teacher by trade. I've taught high school, middle school, swimming, scuba diving, etc. Over the years I've discovered something. No matter how good you are at your subject, if you can't "read" your students, you're a failure. My stained glass teacher was terrible. She was an artist. She was technically good, but she could not impart knowledge. For one thing, her arrogance got in the way. I see this a lot. She would rattle off things, sound important, and never once glance at her students faces. If she did, she would have noticed that none of use had a clue what to do.



If I think back on the classes thoughout my life where the subject has clicked for me... it's a combination of things, but a few constants...

The teacher has GOT to believe in what they are teaching. I really think that passion is the one trait of the truly memorable teacher. The teacher/professor/instructor that throws their soul into their subject captures even the skeptic who is has a grain of hope. The very best teachers have mind, body and soul into their presentation (it's not easy).

There are almost always students who are not receptive, not skilled enough, there for some reason that doesn't, at the moment, include opening themself up to outside influence, whatever - students who will not be touched.

The instructor/teacher HAS to to have a base knowledge of the subject. IMO, it depends on what you are advertising as to how much you really need to know. I don't think that anyone ought to teach anything they haven't tried as a primary subject, although it is perfectly accpetable to set a gifted student to a task that is hearsay based (with that understanding). At some point you move from 'teacher' to guided mentorship; exploration. It's really a skill level thing. The more basic the knowledge, the more answers the teacher should have at hand.

I would say that technique is important. Style is important. A good resource base is really really helpful. But the distinguishing characteristic is love. A good instructor loves the subject and loves people.

A few adjuncts are a good carrying voice, good tonal variation in voice, good props, good surroundings, proper tools.... But ask anyone you know, "what was the most memorable/best/outstanding teacher in your life" and it won't boil down to studio or published/produced work. It will be the way they spoke to the soul of the student in question. Which goes back to sandpiper's observation ...she didn't 'glance at' their faces... Sad, for both the instructor and the student. Because making connections is what it's all about.

2 ¢,

Linda

(Hey Ron - on a ibook, it's 'option 4' for the ¢ - and good mentors provoke you to meet challenges too....if you can do it, I can do it. etc. well, at least with keyboard strokes!)
"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. ...The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours." ~ Ayn Rand

Sandpiper
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Postby Sandpiper » Fri May 09, 2003 7:07 am

Linda and Monica,
You are both right. Monica, exploration learning is the best kind of learning there is. I firmly believe in turning a student loose and letting them make mistakes, fall down, pick themselves up and learn from those mistakes. (As long as they don't get hurt!!!) The gifted student thrives in this environment. A timid student has trouble with this, and students that have been reined in all there lives don't know how to explore without direction. So they will need guidance to help them learn to explore. In the perfect world, this is how we would all teach. Alas, the world is not perfect. Time and money really hold us back. For those of you who have students who are always ahead of the others. Have something interesting and challenging to read. Think about having the student come up with a thought that hasn't been taught in class, and let them experiment to see if it would work. Allow them to help other students. (Provided the other students are receptive to this.) Always have an extra project to work on. I realize in the glass world, extra projects cost extra money, but with a little thought you could probably come up with something. Besides, if someone really gets bitten by the glass bug, I'm guessing you'll make more money, because they are really fired up about producing something else, so more sales...

As far as passion, Linda, you, too, are right on the money. We've all had those teachers who were burned out and just waiting to retire. That's horrible for all involved. Love what you're doing. Be passionate about what you are doing, or stop doing it. Life is way to short to be unhappy. :D
Sandpiper

Dani
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Postby Dani » Fri May 09, 2003 12:04 pm

And, you know what? .... here's a basic. Be nice to your students. I've seen teachers (and had a few myself) who had some crazy belief that they could build character or skills by abusing their students in some way... either by being tough on them or embarassing them in front of people or any number of bizarre tactics. You can give constructive criticism without being mean. Good teachers are nice people. They can direct a student away from creating some horrid piece of schmalz without destroying their egos. And building up their own.

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Postby lyndasglass » Sat May 10, 2003 9:58 pm

I love this discussion. I have taught for a number of years. It seems every job I have ever had I ended up teaching.

I like to think that I am a good teacher. I try very hard to incorporate many of the things that people have mentioned. I try to read my student and teach to their skill and character level. I love the student that just doesn't get it, because that means I need to find a new way to explain it, and that encourages my growth and keep teaching fresh.

I have had teachers that worked hard at embarassing people. I believe that it's my job as the instructor to facilitate an atmosphere where everyone can feel accepted and comfortable. It is my job to act as moderator for the various personalities in a class. When people are expressing themselves through art you are asking them to expose themselves to others. It needs to be a safe enviroment for them to do that it.

I think it is important to be passionate about what you teach and to be informed and current. The one quality of a good teacher that I'm not sure was mentioned is that I think a good teacher is always learning, both from their students and from others that are more advanced in the field.

I beleive that my job as a teacher is to give the student the information that they need to sucessfully move in the direction they wish to go. For some students, they just want to make something pretty. For others they want to know all the techinical stuff that goes into getting that something pretty to be something more. I need to be able to teach to both and to do that I believe I need to have not only a hands on understanding of how glass react to heating and cooling, but I need to know why it does what it does.

Lynda

Paul Tarlow
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Re: More about teachers

Postby Paul Tarlow » Sun May 11, 2003 1:46 am

Dani wrote:The G.A.S. voting thread shifted a bit into conversation about good teaching.... and lack thereof. I thought I'd shift that thread to a new heading and plop it here to post my query. I think we all agree that folks who take a class in anything, then hang out their teaching shingle the next weekend do more harm than good in the long run. But, how do you feel about a teacher's need for demonstrated ability? I ask this because I know exceptionally good teachers who are abysmally bad artitsts.... or don't make art at all! Is it really necessary to be good at what you teach? If so, we'd have many fewer good teachers than we do, IMPO, and we're short of them already! (On the flip side of that coin, there are some dynamite artists who are ghastly teachers....) Any comments?


This whole "what makes a good teacher" thread keeps coming up and --while folks have contributed volumes of excellent observations and ideas -- I'm not sure we've gotten any closer to having some thesis folks can rally around.

The reason for this -- I think -- is that the question is flawed. While some charactaristics of a good teacher are universal many are not.

I depends on what is expected of the teacher and the class.

As I've said in other threads, I believe that "technique" classes are valid and worthwhile -- so long as the student is looking to learn technique. Art classes -- where one learns about composition, balance and such -- are equally valid. The skills that are required for the two classes (and probably the personalities) are not the same. I consider myself an excellent technique teacher. I am not -- and have no desire to be -- a good art teacher.

I also don't believe a teacher needs to inspire. It is nice when it happens, but people find there inspiration in different places. To expect a teacher to inspire everyone in the room is unrealistic. When it happens I consider that frosting.

For a glass technique teacher I believe the science of glass is important. Less so for an art teacher. And, though I've called out these two types, I'm sure others can add to the list.

At the end of the day the good teacher is the one who satisfies the needs of the student. That means that the teacher set the right expectations in advance of people signing up. It also means the teacher is an excellent listener -- one of the characteristics I believe is universally important for all kinds of teachers and classes.

- Paul


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