Building Baby’s Library

#nf10for10

Typically the lead up to the #nf10for10 book event is filled with lots of hemming and hawing by participants as they think out loud (on Twitter) about what titles they should include. A lot of the banter surrounds how more titles than the 10 allowed can actually make people’s lists. And, of course, there’s the age-old dilemma–To buy or not to buy?

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Well this year, I am super motivated to buy books…especially picture books!

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Without hesitation, Mandy was on the case. (And my profile pic had not yet changed to include baby!)

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Indeed, I do have a someone special and small in my life. My first grandchild was born on January 29, 2017, and she has been born into a family of readers! That she would receive many, many books from me was never at issue. BUT having an event like #nf10for10 (and then #pb10for10) to focus my thinking about what to get her when is terrific. So without further delay, let’s begin to build a library for baby!

The foundation of a baby’s library has to be the board book. Here are 10 (plus).

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Rule #1 in choosing children’s books is knowing the illustrator as well as the author. In Hello Baby! two perennial favourites collaborate to hook young readers (and their parents) into falling in love with text. If baby loves this book, more Steve Jenkins and Mem Fox will be heading her way!

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Rule #2. Include the dads. Find a book that dads will love reading to baby. I’m betting my son will return to this book often as it captures the hard work and pride that he values so much.

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With dancers on both sides of her family, there is no side-stepping this topic. Mommy and aunties are sure to gravitate to this book and to read it to baby with passion. That’s key, isn’t it? That the parents and relatives of baby will read to her. That they will sow that seed. Baby’s library has something for everyone!

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A police car, pickup truck, sports car, and monster truck clang and bang and screech and vroom! This is a book that demands interactivity. It’s the best kind of read aloud because the reader can offer up his or her own interpretation of the mechanical cacophony presented on the page. This is a lively and fun book!

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As the days and weeks and months go by, baby will be ready to name things. Colours are a great place to start because they’re everywhere! I absolutely love the illustrations and the point of view in this book. I always knew crayons were alive!

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And she will begin to count.

1 is One is classic Tasha Tudor. The illustrations are of days gone by ~ bonneted girls and a boy writing on a slate; simple, natural settings with some of a whimsical nature (I especially enjoyed the “12 baby birds learning how to sing”). In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the text teaches the numbers 1 through 20 in a rhythmical way. A joy for adult and child alike!

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Oh my gosh! It’s Canada’s 150 birthday this year. What an awesome year to be born in! What better way to connect than with a gorgeously illustrated book all about Canada. This book has legs….in the pre-reading years, it offers wonderfully drawn images of Canada’s iconic symbols, souvenirs and events, including the Dogsled, Inuksuk, Loonie, Totem Pole and the Zamboni machine. And as baby gets older, there is depth to the content of the book like information about the provincial flags. Lots of learning to be had here!

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There is no way I could build baby’s library and not include something from Eric Carle. This classic is designed to help toddlers associate colors and meanings to objects. The book contains all the wonderful and simple illustrations that Eric Carle is famous for. And its repetitive story of all the animals that are found, keeps everyone engaged, reading along, and chanting until…SURPRISE!

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Ok. I cheated. I know. But I wanted to include the idea of the series in the foundation of baby’s library. I want to entice my new reader to books not just for information and not just for the illustrations. I want her to notice what authors do when they write/illustrate/create their books. And that knowledge only comes about with some deep diving into multiple texts by the same author.

What is #nf10for10 anyway?

In 2010 Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere began hosting a picture book event that celebrates participants’ most cherished picture books.  I joined the conversation in 2012 and had so much fun that I wondered out loud if a nonfiction picture book event would meet with similar success. Never one to shy away from a conversation on books, Mandy and Cathy replied with a resounding “YES!”

And #nf10for10 has been a huge success, with folks posting 10 books on dinosaurs, or 10 books on the wonder of women, or 10 books for girl readers, or 10 books on architecture and building, or …

Here are the details:

  • What: 10 nonfiction picture books you can’t live without.
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested — educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.
  • When:  Friday, February 10th
  • Where:  All posts will be linked on the 2017 #nf10for10 page of the Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.

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Choices into Hope

I don’t regularly follow American news. Nor do I follow their politics of the day. Heck, I didn’t pay attention to the most recent U.S. election until after Trump won. It’s not my country. I can neither effect events that happen there nor can I be affected by the decisions made there (well maybe, but let’s not get into that now). I often don’t even join the Twitter conversations between American educators (or British or Australian) in my PLN. Too much of the context is different.

But, I have been moved by Michelle Obama.

The first time was this past summer when looking for mentor texts for the upcoming school year, I stumbled upon a Poynter post called “8 writing lessons from Michelle Obama’s DNC speech”.

I was hooked. The writing, the delivery, and the passion of the speech reeled me in.

So, when I saw mention of Michelle’s last speech as a First Lady fly by me in my Twitter feed on Friday, I didn’t hesitate to curate it for later viewing. This morning while making chicken soup, I listened and I watched Michelle Obama’s final message at the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year celebration.

 

A strong contender for my 2017 word of the year was hope for all of the reasons that Michelle states:

Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise.

Hers is a message for all students, in every corner of the planet. One that young people need to hear repeatedly.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people.

But it is also a message that clearly spells out students’ responsibility.

But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Sometimes students (and adults) think that choice means freedom from facing obstacles in their lives and freedom to do only that which pleases them. Michelle Obama’s speech to young people shows us that’s not the case. Rather, we need to learn to make the choices that make hope possible.

Full Remarks Transcript

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The walls come tumbling down

my-house

When my husband and I bought our first house, the first thing we did was tear down walls. We both love the spaciousness of an open floor plan, the generosity that the open room offers. When we shopped for our next house, we choose one with only one wall that sits at the midpoint of the room, dividing the main floor in half, but open at the ends. This house also has windows that give us a 360º view of the yard.

Space and light merging to create an openness that reflects who I am and my general attitude to life. My classroom door is open. I work in the open (online and public). My work is openly shared. There is no struggle here for me. I have no walls to overcome.

Many do, though, don’t they?

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We know that people put up walls for all kinds of reasons: lack of confidence, a sense of hopelessness, distress, fear. We know walls can protect us and provide us privacy, and we know they can also divide and isolate us. When we put up walls, we interfere with our ability to engage in the world, in our communities, and in our lives. You see this in your classrooms, as do I.

This year I want my students to see their walls. This year I want my students to discover why they constructed the walls. This year I want my students to tear down their walls. Because this year, I want my students to be open to make choices in their learning.

The choice

by Seth Godin

Attitude is the most important choice any of us will make. We made it yesterday and we get another chance to make it today. And then again tomorrow.

The choice to participate.

To be optimistic.

To intentionally bring out the best in other people.

We make the choice to inquire, to be curious, to challenge the status quo.

To give people the benefit of the doubt.

To find hope instead of fear in the face of uncertainty.

Of course these are attitudes. What else could they be?

And of course, they are a choice. No one does these things to us. We choose them and do the work (and find the benefits) that come with them.

Seth says it so well, doesn’t he? These are the choices we want our students to consider. My job is to find a way to get them there. To the other side of the wall.

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#onewordOnt Introduction

Why take on the #oneword challenge?

There are many reasons why one would take on this challenge, but for most, it comes down to focus and intentionality. Having one word through which to “see” your practice, to guide your work, and to reflect on your professional learning gives you a chance to be really intentional about your professional growth. Having one word to concentrate on allows you the time to delve into the nuances of the word, to look at it from various angles, to hold it close and then to view it from a distance. Having one word gives you the chance to be shaped by it.

Scroll through our Twitter hashtag #onewordOnt to read the vibrant and supportive conversation in this community.

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Read a few of the #onewordOnt 2016 posts.

Janet Broder

Mark Carbone

Sue Dunlop

Aviva Dunsiger

Donna Fry

Heather Lye

Diana Maliszewski

Heather Theijsmeijer

Melanie White

Tina Zita

Then consider what your word of the year will be.

Join us by tweeting out your word to #onewordOnt.

You can also write a post where you can make your thinking about the word visible. Remember to share your post to #onewordOnt, too!!

There is no deadline. But, all of the words shared to #onewordOnt by January 21st will be collected into a word cloud!!

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Finally, to ensure that I don’t miss your word, please check this document before January 20th.  If your word is missing, let me know via Twitter or in the comments below.

I am so eager to see our 2017 list!

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#craftreconciliation: The Climbing

In the fall of 2016, Wab Kinew wrote a Facebook post inviting educators to partner “mainstream” classes with First Nation schools/classes to discuss “What does reconciliation look like?”.  Jaclyn Calder and I joined forces (along with Shannon Simpson and Caroline Black) to design a project that offered students an opportunity to think deeply about the relationship between Natives and non-Natives in Canada, generally, and their understanding of reconciliation, specifically. You can view the project at #CraftReconciliation with SCDSB, Wikwemikong, and Rama First Nations.

Here I am summarizing and reflecting on the project. There are five posts in the first part of the series organized around the Ontario Adolescent Literacy Guide‘s five components:

I have also organized the posts in a way that I hope makes visible the teaching – learning process so that other teachers can ‘see’ the learning that emerged from this project. To meet this goal I have attempted to include the tools that were created for this project and to show them in action.

The Trek In

We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you the path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing.

— Justice Murray Sinclair, TRC.

The climbing metaphor is an apt one. The preparation-physical, mental, emotional-for the task at hand, be it climbing or reconciling, is a process. As one does not simply head out to climb Everest, one does not just reconcile the past.


We didn’t reach the summit of the mountain, nor did we expect to. We managed to get to and set-up base camp. We figured out what tools we might like to use, what supplies we would need, and who would do what. We made short forays out from the base camp to check the terrain and plot out possible routes. We acclimatized. While this foundational work was valuable (and made visible our next steps), our biggest accomplishment was that we became a ‘we’. Students and teachers from all over the province from grades 3 to 12 sat around the virtual campfire and began the conversation on reconciliation.

All of our students … they’re the next generation. They’re the ones who are really going to have to come to terms with reconciliation [and] understand it.

When we have conversations together, when we get together and collaborate, and we learn together, then that personal connection can carry us a whole lifetime.

CBC Interview

The Summit Bid

It’s no small feat to make the summit of a mountain. Beyond the physical, emotional, and mental preparation, climbers need to be knowledgeable about the mountain they are taking on. This is the learning I need to better organize for next year: Ensure more opportunities for students to build robust background knowledge early in the process. We began with some background readings and videos on the TRC calls to action. We had conversations in class and online. We did some writing around which call to action was most important. But many students still struggled to connect personally. Of course, they connected with the overarching narrative: my students certainly know about residential schools and their own family history. Locating themselves personally in the conversation about reconciliation was more difficult, and I didn’t understand the gap until late in the process when we hosted Waubgeshig Rice.

This interview was a game changer for many of the Wikwemikong High School students. Wab summarizes his coverage of the Canadian Government’s apology and the TRC hearings as a journalist, and he answers student questions, ranging from water issues to the Indian Act to the future of the language,  from his own experiences. Post-interview, we saw an increase in student engagement, which carried students all the way to the finish line. It’s obvious, I know. The personal connection made via the hangout plays into what we know about student voice and choice.

The interview also reviewed or consolidated the foundational background knowledge that students needed to have to continue on with their own investigations.  The shallow background knowledge that the students acquired in the first part of the course led to a quality of ‘sameness’ across the project. If I want my students to truly engage in the topic (from a personal perspective), we need to spend more time on the front-end teasing out the issues so that students can see them. Yes, of course, residential schools were wrong and people’s lives were traumatically impacted. Yes, of course, racism is hurtful and harmful. Yes, we do want to build relationships between Native and non-Native people based on trust, honesty, and a greater understanding. But, diving deeply into reconciliation will mean grappling with really tough issues, and that is what we need to do. Consider these issues:

  • How sustainable are the many First Nation remote settlements, regardless of changes to education, infrastructure, and governance?
  • How can the treaties be honoured in the 21st century?
  • How might the land-based resources discussion be part of the reconciliation discussion?
  • How might the education of First Nations students shift to include cultural teachings?
  • How might individuals participate in the MMIW inquiry?
  • How might we debunk common myths about First Nations people?

These are some of the issues that people are talking about via social media. Reconciliation between peoples does not occur in the abstract, but rather in the concrete world the people share- land, water, laws, institutions, and language.

What Next?

Beyond bringing in more experts at the beginning of the course, we need to connect students across the project more intentionally. We need to devise a way for students to build knowledge together and then share their learning with each other. We need to facilitate student conversation via commenting more directly and purposefully. This last item-thinking through commenting-is an important modern skill to have, and in the work that I do in all of my classes that connects us to others, I see students struggling to engage in online discussions.

If we can do these things, we will be more prepared to make a bid for the summit of reconciliation.

Our future, and the well-being of all our children rests with the kind of relationships we build today.

– Chief Dr. Robert Joseph

 

 

 

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The #craftreconciliation rubric.

In a way, this experience did prepare me for the future, as I now have a deeper understanding of the people of Canada.

-Grade 11 student

In the fall of 2016, Wab Kinew wrote a Facebook post inviting educators to partner “mainstream” classes with First Nation schools/classes to discuss “What does reconciliation look like?”.  Jaclyn Calder and I joined forces (along with Shannon Simpson and Caroline Black) to design a project that offered students an opportunity to think deeply about the relationship between Natives and non-Natives in Canada, generally, and their understanding of reconciliation, specifically. You can view the project at #CraftReconciliation with SCDSB, Wikwemikong, and Rama First Nations.

Here I am summarizing and reflecting on the project. There are five posts in the first part of the series organized around the Ontario Adolescent Literacy Guide‘s five components:

I have also organized the posts in a way that I hope makes visible the teaching – learning process so that other teachers can ‘see’ the learning that emerged from this project. To meet this goal I have attempted to include the tools that were created for this project and to show them in action. I am still learning how to display docs in the best way for this platform. If you have ideas for me, please take a minute to leave them in the comment box below.

You will also notice that I am asking the students to “Self-Assess using this rubric” and “Determine a mark and add it to the bottom of the rubric”. Not connected to the #craftreconciliation project, but connected to my own evolving work in assessment and evaluation, I decided to have the students self-assess this semester. While this is not a grade-less class, as I do need to put a mark on a report card, students need to engage in the process of reviewing their work, submit it to me for feedback via a digital Assignment Submission form, revise it accordingly, and then assess it using the established criteria. Sometimes the criteria are organized into a rubric, and sometimes it is a Met Not Yet Met Checklist. They can choose to repeat this process as often as they wish, but once it is “their final answer” they post it somewhere…Sesame, Goodreads, Hightail, D2L, their blog…depending on what the item is.

Assessment and Evaluation

Assessment: Feedback First.

During an inquiry process, it is crucial to have built-in times for checking in with students. Part of the learning we do is together (hangouts, small group discussions, collaborations), and part of it is an individual endeavour. Both arrangements can run into obstacles, and it’s my job to help keep everyone on track.

Most of the check-in times see me sitting with the students and having short, intentional conversations about their work. I have my laptop with me and I track these conversations in a Google sheet. Other times, I will leave text or voice comments on the students’ digital documents, and of course, I will comment in their notebooks and respond to emails.

There are times, however, that I want to give students individual feedback that is specific to their work, and I want them to take stock of where they are. I didn’t include this tool in the Metacognition post but the Success Criteria Met Not Yet Met Feedback tool (if used well) is a metacognitive strategy. I leave digital comments after the student has completed the checklist.

Evaluation: Where is the evidence of your learning? 

The #craftreconciliation inquiry project ran the entire semester divided essentially into three main strands:

  1. The Build
  2. The Research
  3. The Literature: Starting Over

The build and the parts of the research process were assessed together with one rubric that I designed before the project started. Backwards planning is key to the success of any course design, but this course was going to be designed as we went. There were so many factors at play:

  • Group dynamics
  • Group deadlines
  • Combined classwork (Ms. Black and I combined our ENG3E/4E and ENG3C/4C classes for many learning events
  • Combined literature circles across our classes
  • Student choice
  • Minecraft!?!

and on and on. I knew that by having the over-arching rubric done and at the ready, we could keep pulling the course back to where it needed to be.

What I have done below is to provide thumbnails of the rubric and a link to the actual document. Below that are a series of screenshots of a student completed rubric.

See the rubric here. 

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I can’t link you to the actual student rubric since it is full of hyperlinks to documents set in edit mode (at my request). I’ve kept the images large enough so that you can read them. I don’t think you need to see all of the student work. This exercise is not one of moderation, but rather a chance to see the tools in action.

Student completed rubric.

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Finally, this evaluation was part of a whole course Evidence of Learning document that the students completed in order to determine their mark for the 70% portion of their grade (I held onto the 30% this year since we are all new to this process. Everyone -you know who I mean-felt better with this arrangement.)

I do need to write about the self-assessment process (separate from #craft because I did it in all of my classes), but suffice it to say here that I will continue with self-assessment next semester. Students told me repeatedly that for the first time in their academic careers, they understood what they were learning and how that connected to their marks. Comments like this were not uncommon:

After speaking with Ms. Balen about the mark I gave myself on this document, we came to an agreement that in self grading my mark I didn’t give myself enough credit for the work I’ve done.

If you have questions about #craftreconciliation or if there are parts of this post that need clarification, please use the comment box to connect with me.

Up next: The Climbing

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#craftreconciliation: Metacognition

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In the fall of 2016, Wab Kinew wrote a Facebook post inviting educators to partner “mainstream” classes with First Nation schools/classes to discuss “What does reconciliation look like?”.  Jaclyn Calder and I joined forces (along with Shannon Simpson and Caroline Black) to design a project that offered students an opportunity to think deeply about the relationship between Natives and non-Natives in Canada, generally, and their understanding of reconciliation, specifically. You can view the project at #CraftReconciliation with SCDSB, Wikwemikong, and Rama First Nations.

Here I am summarizing and reflecting on the project. There are five posts in this series, and they are organized around the Ontario Adolescent Literacy Guide‘s five components:

I have also organized the posts in a way that I hope makes visible the teaching – learning process so that other teachers can ‘see’ the learning that emerged from this project.

Metacognition

refers to students taking active ownership of their thinking processes so that they understand themselves as learners, they understand a given task, and they understand a variety of strategies and how to use them in a variety of situations.

Metacognition means…

From theory

Learners identify their own understandings in relation to learning goals and success criteria

To practice

It took me a long time to think about how I could best make visible some of the metacognitive thinking that happened in this course. A big part of the difficulty is that student thinking about their thinking happened in conversation and/or their notebooks. Digitizing this process is something that I will definitely change for next year. Another issue though are the types of questions the students were asked. Because this is an English course, many of the questions focused on reading and writing. (We did also read long texts for literature circles and write about our reading.) I decided not to include those reflections here, so that the focus on #craftreconciliation remains consistent. I also decided to include reflections from only one student for this first point both for the sake of economy as well as to give you a sense of what that trajectory might look like.

At the beginning of the semester, I ask students to create learning goals based on what they believed they needed to learn next, including growth mindset, which I always teach to at the outset of the course. You can see that oral communication and media creation don’t make this student’s initial list.

Course goals set in February:

Here are the things I want to learn to get better at in this English course.

  • Writing stronger sentences will help me out a lot I think because it will help me express my writing make it look like it is not even me.
  • I would love to do is being able to read faster, so I can read a lot more in a short period of time. I would still love to be able to understand what I am reading so I have to work on all reading skills like think about what I am reading, re-read if I don’t understand etc. I think reading faster will also help a lot in college and for the program I am going in.
  • My growth mindset area is extending more effort or seeing effort as a path to mastery. I think that fits me best because I like to try my best to extend when researching in topics I enjoy. I like to see myself make progress instead of thinking negative and saying I can’t do it. 

Reflections post-Google Hangouts and initial literature circle:

One of my strengths is oral communication because I am better at listening and talking than I am at reading and writing. For example, during the Google Hangout for the #craftreconciliation project, listening to other students ideas helped me think about what I want to do for the project.

Mid-term Thinking: 

In oral communication … I was able to engage more because I could share my understanding [of reconciliation] with others [on Google Hangouts] which helps me out more by exploring people’s suggestions and what reconciliation means to them. My reading is a whole different ball game I am not as strong as I wish I could be with my reading.

Media: #craftreconciliation interview (not reflection on strategies and learning; just content)

 

Year-End Reflections on learning:

The listening strategies that help me the most is having good posture when listing, making good eye contact with the speaker, and taking notes on something that will help me when I am called upon to speak or write about later. In a group discussion I think it is good for me to talk and try keep it going because most the time I am paired up with people who are too shy to talk or even participate in. To make sure I am using appropriate language I will listen to how others are using their language and how they choose to pick their vocabulary. I will try and follow up and use similar vocabulary or language to match and make myself sound more educational or into the conversation. The strategies I use most when understanding oral communication is writing notes and really finding a connection to what the speaker has to say. I think writing notes will keep me on top of things when I am called to talk or finding a connection will help me because I will be able to really engage in the conversation and be able to share and express my own thinking more.

Media: #craftreconciliation build final reflection and tour

 

From theory

Learners reflect on their learning and engaging in conversations about their thinking

To practice

Here are a variety of students’ responses to their learning in the project:

#Craftreconciliation did connect with the way I like to learn because I got to learn from other students from other places about what reconciliation is and what it means to them.—Tammara

#craftreconciliation definitely did connect a lot with how I like to learn [because] one of the ways I like to learn is creating stuff and getting all my creative juices flowing with something that I know that can really speak to someone or a group of people.—Austin

My favourite learning activity in the #craftreconciliation inquiry has been researching my own topic because I was able to look at how reconciliation has changed and became stronger over the years.–Seneca

However, the bulk of the digital reflections centred on the students explaining their vision of what reconciliation looks like to them, not on their learning, the way they accessed strategies or how they overcame learning challenges. I need to do more work here.

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If you have questions about #craftreconciliation or if there are parts of this post that need clarification, please use the comment box to connect with me.

Up next: Assessment and Evaluation

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