Discussing Politics in School and Beyond

Hello!

Two posts in 48 hours – guess I’m feeling inspired!

It’s just a short post, but I imagine that a lot of schools and workplaces (in the UK, and further afield), and any other places where people congregate, will be concerned about the outcome of the UK’s General Election, and I just wanted to write a little post on it.

I sincerely hope that people do not abuse each other for whichever way somebody they know voted. In terms of school pupils and sixth form/college students, those under the age of 18 may feel frustrated if the party they would have voted for, if they could have, did not win, and even young children may worry about the result, and what effect it will have, too. Young people may also worry about what others will say about how their older, eligible family members voted.

Ideally, people (across ages) should be able to have conversations with each other about the result of the General Election, without worry about potential repercussions in their relationships if they differ in opinion. For surely it’s an opportunity to learn about others’ points of view?

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As always, I’d love to know what you think about this, please: is there anything you would like to comment upon?

Thank you for reading,

Jessica

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Cultivating a Positive Body Image

Hello,

Yes, I’m back! I’m not regular with these blog posts, but I finally finished my undergraduate degree at the end of last month. I’m just waiting to see what my results are now – how exciting and scary! It was a pretty tough semester, doing three modules and writing my dissertation, plus I organised a mental health awareness and fundraising event at University during Mental Health Awareness Week in May. Some people will say ‘Did you not have enough to do?’, but when I’m passionate about something I tend to go after it, even if it challenges my organisation (unless I just have way too much on, then I know when to say ‘no’, even if I really want to do it), ha ha.

Today, I thought I would do a little post on body image. It’s something that can affect all of us, any age and gender, and so I thought to write a little post on it. It is a sensitive issue, and if you particularly struggle with yours you might want to talk to someone you trust about it, for example, a family member, a friend, your doctor or a counsellor (I know those latter two might sound scary, but they’re there to help you if you’re struggling, and are qualified). But I’m going to write this like I would to a friend: I’m going to try my best to remind you to appreciate your body. When I was a kid I hated the way I looked, and it took a long time, years, to actually think, ‘Yeah, okay, this is how I look’, and eventually, ‘I’m happy with how I look today’. I’ll admit I still have my self-conscious moments, but I just try to remind myself that I’m me and that’s good enough, and focus on feeling happy.

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The summer has arrived, and some people will be feeling pressure to look a certain way (more so than at other times of the year, except for special occasions where self-consciousness can often crop up). They might want to lose weight, or have a tan, etc., and what I wish I could tell them (and you) is that it’s okay to aim for these goals, but please don’t push yourself to dangerous extremes in order to accomplish them. For example: You want to be a healthier weight (this may be an increase or decrease in weight), so you start dieting and exercising. These are good activities, as long as you don’t over-do them, and it’s important that you don’t berate yourself in the process. Thinking thoughts such as, ‘Ugh, I’m so ugly, I can’t wait till I look like this, then I’ll be fine, etc.’ are negative. Instead, try to think, ‘Okay, I have this goal, but this is a process. I’m going to enjoy the activity more than the goal: experience the fun of exercising, and finding new, tasty recipes. I’m not defined by how I look- beauty is subjective anyway’, etc. Do you see the change in thinking?

Some more examples:

  • You want to wear a t-shirt because it makes you feel good, though you momentarily think, ‘Will people look at me? At my arms? etc.’? Put it on anyway, then look at yourself and think, ‘Hey, this makes me feel good, so I’m going to wear it.’ It’s about focussing on how you feel, and not what others may think. You don’t even know if they’re thinking, ‘Wow, they look good! I like their t-shirt!’ (Unless they tell you.)

 

  • You want to change your hairstyle? Do it!  (Some workplaces and schools have policies on hairstyles though, so be aware of them.)

 

  • You want to try that activity, though you think, ‘Will I look a mess/ strange whilst I’m doing it?’ Do it, you might enjoy the experience and find a new hobby!

 

Just make sure you enjoy being you – how you look is nothing compared to how you feel. If you persistently feel low/ anxious about your body image though, then I recommend talking to somebody you trust, as I mentioned near the beginning of this post.

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Thank you for reading that! I’d love to hear what you think of it, please, and if there is anything you would add?

Have a great day!

Jessica

 

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A Reminder

Hi!

I felt compelled to write this post, because if I can help somebody through a tough time, or remind at least one person that what I’m about to write is true, it is worth it:

You matter. You deserve respect, and so do others. Your struggles do not define you. Please don’t give up, as even if things are bad right now, there will be better times ahead. It is okay to ask for help. Some people might dismiss your struggle(s), as they don’t understand, or know how to help, but there will always be people who try to understand and help you in whatever way they can. You are not a burden, or just an arrangement of atoms – you are a person with dreams, hopes, fears, likes, and dislikes. You can achieve. The world might not be the nicest place, but you can make your world great by finding things that nourish you, and being kind to yourself and others. You matter.

Go through the paragraph above again, and change the word ‘You’ to ‘I’, or ‘me’, where appropriate, and ‘your’ to ‘my’. Repeat as much as you need, and even say it out loud – you might feel silly at first, but it could help you to realise the weight of these words, and how true they are.

Feel free to share this with the people you care about, and remind them, too.

_______________

Jessica

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Understanding and Helping the ‘Quiet’ Students

Hi!

Yes, I’ve been a bad blogger again and haven’t posted in two months. So, happy New Year, everyone (it looks strange to write that in February)! I hope 2017 is going well for you so far.

I’ve started my second, and final, semester of University. It’s going to be my busiest semester, as I went against advice last year and chose to do four modules this semester and two modules last semester (I have to do a total of six). Why? Because I found there were more interesting and helpful (the latter in terms of teaching) modules in this second semester, and since the two modules I were interested in in the first semester were both quite heavy in terms of reading (Shakespeare and Jane Austen), I thought it might balance out okay. The modules are fascinating, and I’m really excited to complete my dissertation (I’m going to enjoy the process along the way).

What am I writing about today? Well, I’ve had a few ideas for posts which aren’t fully developed yet, but it struck me that I could write about engaging the ‘quiet’ students. I’m not trained in teaching yet, so you might want to take this post with a grain of salt, but I am writing conjecturally, and from my own experiences and observations. If you do teach, and if you don’t, please feel free to comment and let me know what you think – you might agree or disagree with me, and I like hearing (or, rather, reading, in this case!) different perspectives, as it helps me to learn.

Without further ado, let’s consider the engagement of ‘quiet’ students.

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What is going on in the minds of quiet students?

They could be thinking any of the following (or similar):

  • ‘Okay. This is okay, I’m content with what we’re doing, and I don’t really feel the need to say much.’

 

  • ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. Everybody else seems to be getting on okay, maybe I just need to think a bit more, look back at my notes.’

 

  • ‘Ooh, I have an idea/ response to the question the teacher just asked! But what if it’s wrong? What if I raise my hand, and then everybody turns around, and then I mess it up, and turn out to be wrong anyway? Even if I’m right, why would I draw attention to myself? I’m just going to write it down, and when the teacher marks it I’ll get to find out what they think – that’s okay, isn’t it? I’m still engaging, just not verbally… I wish I could be more confident.’

 

  • ‘I’m just going to try to get through the work, never mind saying anything.’

 

  • ‘What does it matter? It’s not like anything I say matters.’

 

Why might students think like this?

  • They might just be naturally quiet people. This doesn’t mean they won’t have numerous thoughts whizzing around their head.

 

  • Something, e.g. bullying, their home-life, their mental health, hormonal fluctuations (in teenagers), their previous experiences in class(es), has affected them, their self-esteem, and/ or their ability to engage in class.

 

What could we do about this, to make sure students are coping okay with their work, and progressing?

  • Keep a check  on how they’re doing – both academically and personally. Liaising with support staff, other teachers, personal tutors, and family/ carers (if possible) should help in this respect.

 

  • Remind your students that there is no such thing as a stupid question. No matter if a student asks the most basic question, they deserve your patience and encouragement. If you’ve just told them the answer to their question five or ten minutes ago, it can be frustrating, but instead of giving in to the frustration, you may want to consider their concentration level, or the possibility that they may like to ‘double-check’ something, for fear they’ll do their work wrong.

 

  • Create a culture of positivity and acceptance within the classroom, and around the school. This can help their confidence to flourish. In class, some students will think ‘I really hope the teacher doesn’t ask me a question’, and squirm when you do, but by encouraging their self-esteem, and working on easing them into class discussions, they may eventually become a student who volunteers to give an answer/ answers.

 

  • Potentially run, or encourage students to join, an after-school club. For example, if a student shies away from reading aloud in class, running a reading club, which might not be attended by many, and encouraging them to read a section aloud, even for a little bit, and even if it’s just to you at first, might eventually help them to feel more comfortable reading aloud in front of multiple people.

 

A little anecdote: When I was ten years old, I remember my Year 6 teacher talking about a Maths and Literacy class she was going to run after school. I suffered from low self-esteem through primary school, and though I loved Literacy, I hated Maths, and I remember thinking something like, ‘Well it’s optional, I don’t have to go, and so I don’t have to do extra Maths!’ As I worked alongside my classmates in an IT room, the teacher was in a corner going through who she was going to send letters home with, to let their parents know about the after-school class. I thought, ‘Aha, she’s not going to say me’, and then she eventually called down to me, ‘Jessica’. I thought ‘Oh no,’ and went up to her, and we talked about how it was my confidence with Maths that was affecting me. So I started going to the after-school classes, and you know what? I started getting more comfortable with Maths, and I eventually started feeling a bit more excited to answer Maths questions during the school day. If my teacher hadn’t encouraged me to go to those after-school classes, what would my confidence with Maths have been like by the end of primary school? During secondary school? I only wish I could tell her I chose to do Maths at A-Level – the primary school me would never have dreamed of doing Maths post-compulsory! It just goes to show the effect you can have on people.

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What do you think? Is there anything I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading!

Jessica

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Hello…

Hello,

Yes, I’m alive, and I’m breaking my 7-month (7 months?!) streak of no blogging tonight. I just decided to write after I saw somebody  had liked my Facebook page tonight, even with the lack of posting. Whoever you are, thank you for inadvertently spurring me to post.

Where have I been? Well, from the Summer till now, I’ve been reading for Uni, applying for work experience (expect a blog post with advice on that – it took me 4 attempts this year to gain some work experience, which I just finished at the start of this month), starting to learn to drive, attending Uni classes, being a Student Representative for my course, working on my confidence by joining kickboxing classes, and just generally going about life. It’s the last week of the semester at my University this week, so I guess now is a good time to post.

I think part of the problem I’ve been having with blogging (and even interacting with other blogs/ bloggers by commenting) is that I tend to overthink: is what I’m writing any good? Does it contribute anything? Then I think, ‘Nope, it doesn’t, leave it for now and come back later when you’re not so busy/ you have something worth saying.’ I guess it is both helpful and unhelpful to think  that way, so I’m just pushing through by writing this. Maybe in the future I’ll write more spontaneously.

That’s all I have to say for now, but if you’ve read this, thank you!

Jessica

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Pick-me-up: Some Tips For Students and Teachers on Managing Stress and Self-Esteem

Hello!

It’s been almost two months since I posted on here, but I’ve finished my second year at University (exciting – bring on final year, however nerve-wracking it be!), so you should see me blogging more often over the next few months.

I know that schools, sixth forms, colleges, and even universities will still be making their way through the academic year though, so as well as picking up this blog again, I thought I would write a post containing tips for students and teachers to help manage stress and self-esteem. This post will be a pick-me-up for them (hence, the title of this post – I love ambiguity).

The five tips I’m about to list are some I use/ have used myself, as we all get stressed, and I used to struggle with self-esteem, a lot, when I was much younger. This list is by no means exhaustive or definitive though, as you, or somebody you know, might have different methods. These are here to increase awareness, because I think it can be all-too-easy to hide stress or self-esteem issues.

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1). I cannot overstate the importance of keeping in contact with people. A family member, a friend, a teacher, a personal tutor, a colleague, your doctor, a support service offered by your school/college/sixth form/ university (for students, this includes anyone from the school nurse to the person in charge of student welfare, and for teachers this includes human resources), a phone service… anybody you can trust. Talking about problems really can help, and though it might feel awkward at first, it’s worth it. There is no shame in asking for help – any good person will help you, even if it’s just to direct you onto somebody who they think can give you better advice. If the person/ people you talk to can advise you and support you, that is fantastic. If they know you personally, then they will also know your interests, and things to talk about with you that will make you happy. Acknowledging and addressing issues, but also focussing on positive things, makes for a good mind-set.

2). Surround yourself with positivity – whether it’s one of the people mentioned above, or something with a positive quote, small things that make you smile can really help. For example, one of my friends recently gifted me with a tiny book full of positive quotes – it’s so wonderful that I intend to keep it forever, and put it in my bag so that I get a little inspirational quote every day. It makes me smile, and it helps with determination. Something as simple as a few positive words, whether that’s reading them, saying them out loud, or writing them down, can buoy you up.

3). When you’re stressed, take breaks from the source of your stress. Trust me when I say that over-working really doesn’t help. Neither does under-working- you need to strike the balance right. Breaks help refresh your mind. Also, a problem I have with work is that I aim to make it ‘right’. I aim for perfection. But perfection is a construct, it’s not observable. I think we need to remind ourselves sometimes that we are human.

4). Maintain a good diet to keep your brain and body in good condition, and make sure you get enough sleep to keep your energy levels up. Nothing is worth neglecting your health.

5). Be deliberately positive. Right now, you might be thinking, ‘Jessica, how is that possible when I’m stressed or feeling low in confidence? I want to be positive, but I’m not right now.’ It does sound rather strange, but if you pretend that you’re confident, you might actually start to feel that way. Worrying that you’re not doing good enough, or working quick enough, etc.? Tell yourself you are, tell yourself ‘I am doing this, I can do this, I am good, and I can achieve!’ Repeat as often as you like/ need. For example, I used to hate giving presentations – I was terrified that  I would look strange, sound strange, and bore my audience. Then, when I had to give a presentation a couple of years ago, I told myself, ‘You know this. Go pretend you’re that singer you listen to, the one who exudes confidence when they walk around on the stage.’ I did, and it helped greatly. You might not reckon I had such confidence problems when I was younger, because I even did a video-blog last year and I’m a Student Ambassador for my University: it’s my job to represent my University alongside other Student Ambassadors, and talk to prospective students and encourage them to aspire. It’s not to say that I’m confident all of the time –  I have my down days. What’s important is that you find a way to pick yourself up, and head in a positive direction. When you’re positive, and you express that, you can make other people feel positive too. How fantastic is that?

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Thank you for reading my post today! As always, please feel free to let me know what you think, I appreciate every comment.

Jessica

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One Year

Hi there!

A year ago today, I started this blog. I’ve written fifteen posts (with multiple planned and draft posts – I really need to finish those!) since then, on a variety of topics related to education in some way. This isn’t a lot, compared to what some fantastic bloggers  do, but I’m proud that I managed to write them anyways. It’s been an interesting year:

  • I made a Twitter account for my blog, which allowed me to connect with some interesting bloggers and educators. It always surprises and excites me when somebody comments on my blog, or keeps up-to-date with me via my blog/ Twitter/ Facebook page, or replies to or re-tweets one of my tweets. I appreciate it. Tweets and Twitter chats always prove thought-provoking, and help me to consider what I might do as a teacher.

 

  • I started to consider postgraduate options other than going straight to do a PGCE after I finish final year. I still want to complete teacher training, but I have been thinking about whether I want to do an MA in English or an MA in TESOL before, or after, I’ve gained QTS. It doesn’t help that I get enthusiastic about a lot of different things, and a conversation at a Postgraduate Open Day I attended (there will be a blog about Open Days to come!) left me wondering about doing a PhD, for the second time in my life.

 

So what’s coming up? Well, apart from blog posts, I turn twenty next month, and in two months’ time I will finish my second year of University!  I’ll also be choosing my modules (classes) for third year, discussing my dissertation idea(s), and writing my personal statement for post-graduate courses. Exciting and nerve-wracking times.

Have a great day!

Jessica

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Are you celebrating a milestone in blogging, or a milestone in education? I’d love to hear from you!

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Mental Health Awareness

Hello!

I’m very sorry for my protracted absence.  ‘What have you been doing?’ you ask? Well I have been working away at University (I just received official confirmation of my semester one results yesterday, which make me happy), keeping up with family and friends, reading, learning a bit more Turkish (though I must confess I learn more how to sing Turkish songs than I do my basic words, but I did recently learn how to say ‘great’ (‘harika’) and ‘congratulations’ (‘tebrikler’)) and more! I’ve also recently signed up to a short online course, which excites me. I have essays due in the not-so distant future, and revision to do for an exam in the Summer, so I’m going to be very busy. That won’t completely stop me from blogging though! I just need to manage my time well.

Without further ado, I shall now give you a short blog post:

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Did you know that today, the 3rd of March, is University Mental Health Awareness Day in the UK? This post will not just be directed at  University students though – it’s directed at anybody and everybody. Your mental health is extremely important, and should be treated as such.

If you’re having worrying thoughts or changes in mood, I highly recommend that you talk to at least one of the following people:

  • A family member/ carer
  • A friend
  • Your doctor
  • Support staff at your school/ sixth form/ college/ University/ workplace
  • A colleague/ manager
  • Your personal tutor at school/ sixth form/ college/ University
  • Your Programme Leader (at University)
  • Your Student Representative (at University, though a similar thing exists in schools as a school buddy).
  • The Samaritans

There is such a wealth of support, and these people should be willing to help you, even if it’s to direct you onto a more suitable person. You have nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about, although I understand it is easy to feel that way. If one of these people dismisses your issue, please don’t be disheartened. They just might not know how to respond correctly. Instead, talk to somebody else.

But how should one respond, ideally? This is something we need to learn how to do, if we don’t already naturally do it. We need to be patient, attentive, and unassuming. This means listening to the person, not rushing them, and not putting words in their mouths. In fact, talking might not be the method somebody wants to use to initially communicate a problem to you. They may want to write it down, or even draw a picture instead. What should then happen, is that you direct the person onto somebody more suitable e.g. a support staff member or a doctor. If you don’t know who to direct them to, it’s okay to ask somebody, ‘If you’re having a personal issue, who do you go to?’

Always remember this: personal issues do not define you, or any person. There are many inspiring, good people with fantastic aspirations who struggle – they just need some extra support to help them.

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Jessica

P.S. – The end of this month will mark one year since I set up this blog, so you can expect a post on the one-year date too, and maybe another post for good measure!

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New Year’s Resolutions

Hello!

I hope you are all doing well, and have enjoyed the festive break.

2015 has been a tumultuous year. For me, some of the major education-related points have been:

  • I started this blog nine months ago
  • I passed my first year of University
  • I completed a leadership course
  • I met some amazing people, in real life, and through social media (education chats on Twitter are wonderful).

Since we are now at the end of the year, some of you might be making New Year’s resolutions. I thought to share mine on here with you, as they all relate in some way to education or aspirations:

1). Keep maintaining work/ life balance.

A resolution I made for 2015, that will be ever important for my health.

2). Organise work experience.

Another resolution I made for 2015, and one that is necessary if I am to apply for teacher training. I have already done some work experience in schools, but I need to do more (and I love it).

3). Organise a mental health awareness event.

I started making plans for this with some friends at University, and I am determined that we get this done in 2016. We need understanding about mental health (and a variety of other issues).

4). Wear my inspirational necklace every day.

Now, this might seem a bit of a strange resolution, but my parents bought me a beautiful necklace that reminds me to never give up on my dreams. So, in wearing that, there will be at least one positive reminder every day.

5). Keep learning Turkish.

As you may know, I started learning Turkish in the Summer, and I intend to keep learning it. Currently, I listen to Turkish music more often than I actively learn the language, but I received a wonderful Turkish phrasebook/ dictionary at Christmas, which is bound to keep me ever-fascinated.

6). Write my personal statement for teacher training applications.

It is very exciting, and scary, to think that I will be applying for teacher training this year. I look forward to completing this resolution!

7). Keep blogging on education.

Of course! I intend to blog here for many years to come. I’ve met some wonderful educators through it (and through its social media).

8). Do the ‘Thank You/ I Love…’ post on Facebook every week.

This is separate to my blog, but on my personal Facebook a few week ago I decided to start writing a ‘Thank you/ I love…’ status every week, just to show appreciation to the people in my life, and spread some positivity. Everybody deserves recognition.

9). Learn about different faiths, cultures, and languages.

I’ve always been curious about the way people lead their lives, and I like to learn and be open-minded. I will apply for a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course, and when I decided this, I thought to myself, ‘You know, if you’re going to teach the English language, wouldn’t it be interesting if you learnt at least a few words/ phrases of the non-English languages that the people you know speak?’

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That’s my New Year’s resolutions. What are yours? I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope you have an amazing 2016!

Jessica

 

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Equality and Diversity

Hello!

I have finished my first semester of second year studying BA English at University, and how fascinating a time it was. It is quite astounding that I am halfway through my degree now… I have three essays to write over Christmas, and I am going to read ahead for next semester, in addition to numerous other things, but you will also be seeing me here more, hopefully!

Tonight, I wanted to write a short post on an issue I hold strong beliefs about: equality and diversity.

I have always had an interest in learning about, or observing, the way other people lead their lives. Not in a pesky or overbearing way, but just a simple curiosity, because I like to understand people. For example, in my secondary school they created a multi-faith room (whilst I was doing my A-Levels in their Sixth Form) and it was, to me, the most beautiful room in the whole place. It was wonderful to know that those who were religious could practice their religion there, as well as any other place they ordinarily attended. The room was also open to those who were not religious. This room of respect was, and is, rather inspirational.

Another source of inspiration was my holiday this summer, where I found hearing calls to prayer and the Turkish language beautiful. Once I returned from my holiday, I started to research CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses. Why? I researched these courses because I am sure it can be overwhelming, and alienating, for people who go to a country where the primary language used is English and they do not know it well. I want to be one of the people who help stop the alienation. (I might even try to learn some words and/ or phrases of some of the other languages I am sure to come across in my future career, because why should I not try? I will create an atmosphere of positivity, of acceptance, in whatever way I can.)

This aspiration applies to so many other areas too, areas that should not cause us to make assumptions about other people:

  • race
  • age
  • sexuality
  • religion
  • language
  • social status
  • culture
  • education
  • disability
  • family history, etc.

Such a statement is very optimistic, given how many opinions and assumptions we hear/ read every day, but I believe in it. Everybody is an individual, and deserve to be treated as such. We need to try to discover somebody for themselves, and not who we think they may be.

These values of equality and toleration are just two values I hope to promote when I become a teacher, amongst my students, my colleagues, and other people I know (though I already do it).

We need to care for each other, because we are all human.

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Jessica

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