Assistant teacher course/Teachers' handbook/Administration

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School fees[edit | edit source]

Public schools funded from tax revenue that do not usually collect school fees can request independent tuition fees for assistant teacher and mentoring programs. Tuition fees should not be used to exclude anybody but pupils whose parents did not pay tuition fees could, for instance, have to wait for the second year of an assistant teacher or mentoring effort before being allowed to participate. Parents unable to pay tuition fees should be able to apply for scholarships; especially pupils suitable for the initial assistant teacher training should not be excluded. It is suggested that school policy should require that at least 50% of the revenues had to be used for partner programs with schools in least developed countries.

Pupils can also be allowed to pay membership fees to mentoring organizations accredited with the school instead but schools should consider to enforce that 50% of the revenues were allocated for least developed countries and the mentoring organizations made appropriate use of funds to the benefit of the school, the pupils and for other educational goals.

A psychological effect is that parents and pupils can be motivated to reflect on the value of early participation in an assistant teacher effort, which may increase the prestige of an assistant teacher effort and the view of the assistant teacher group as an educational elite, which is a view teachers can feel free to encourage. Pupils can be motivated to consider paying half the tuition fee from their own spending money (parents can commit to paying the remainder), which can also have a beneficial psychological effect.

Department conference of the faculty[edit | edit source]

An assistant teacher effort is likely to require diversification by subject. A recommended development of an assistant teacher effort is, for instance, to establish subject specific cooperation with teachers through a committee of the grade, a symposium of pupils from all grades or through a representative. A formal cooperation with the faculty is beneficial because the pupils learn to follow a formal procedure and to take care of their own affairs as a community. Diversification by subject allows more assistant teachers to hold an office.

Initially the assistant teachers may not have decided on a formal system for cooperation or may have decided to postpone the development of a formal system to allow later assistant teachers to reform the initial system. What the teachers can do is to occasionally provide motivation to develop the existing system towards this goal.

One form of motivation could, for instance, be a department conference of the faculty that made decisions about subject specific affairs of the pupils without consulting with the pupils in any way. An example could be a department conference that disqualified an assistant teacher without further explanation. The department conference could, on request, demand a dialog partner that was at least appointed by the assistant teachers and competent in the specific subject, which could be interpreted to mean sufficient grades in the subject.

It seems important to find the right balance between cooperative behavior and irritating behavior so as not to alienate the pupils but to motivate the pupils to take the artificial problems seriously. To present the pupils with a challenge a teacher doesn't have to appear unfriendly, merely determined and unwilling to solve the specific problem for them.

If the pupils decide to discuss the problem with a teacher the teacher can give any number of hints as long as the pupils appear to have accepted the challenge and aim to solve the problem.

Planning ahead[edit | edit source]

Class teachers should plan ahead and be prepared to intervene if the pupils of a class do not meet the expectations. During the second semester of an assistant teacher effort the pupils should have made some steps towards taking control of the effort, otherwise the assistant teachers should become a majority soon afterwards, which might discourage further efforts by the pupils. Pupils should be encouraged to complete their first democratic election campaign before the end of grade eight. In the case of low participation teachers can encourage the interested pupils to join a conspiracy: The remaining pupils find themselves with representatives that don't act in their interest and have to begin a new election in the next semester.

An assistant teacher effort should have made at least 50% of the potential participants assistant teachers at half the available time. In an assistant teacher effort with an entry phase from the first semester of grade eight to the second semester of grade nine that means at the beginning of grade nine the 50% margin should be a criterion for intervention. Ending the entry phase at the end of grade nine allows teachers to use the first weeks of grade ten for prolongation as a sign of goodwill by the teachers, if necessary.

Coopetition [1] can help to encourage groups of assistant teachers to meet the expectations. A better motivation is understanding for the obligation of the assistant teachers towards the pupils but competition can contribute additional encouragement, at least for some pupils.

School policy[edit | edit source]

Motivation[edit | edit source]

To make the assistant teacher office mandatory school policy should require a pupil to have qualified as assistant teacher at some time. The recommendation is to allow pupils to become assistant teachers beginning with the eighth grade and to require the assistant teacher qualification for admittance to college preparatory tracks in high school or college preparatory sixth form grades. A finer distinction is shown in the diagram below.

middle school junior high school high school / sixth form
five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen
variable entry phase assistant teacher
  Moral culture must be based upon 'maxims', not upon discipline; the one prevents evil habits, the other trains the mind to think. We must see, then, that the child should accustom himself to act in accordance with 'maxims' and not from certain ever-changing springs of action. Through discipline we form certain habits, moreover, the force of which becomes lessened in the course of years. The child should learn to act according to 'maxims', the reasonableness of which he is able to see for himself. One can easily see that there is some difficulty in carrying out this principle with young children, and that moral culture demands a great deal of insight on the part of parents and teachers. 

On education (Über Pädagogik), Immanuel Kant

Mandatory participation in an assistant teacher effort could be seen as essential to give the assistant teacher office the necessary reputation to make it work. Voluntary participation allows pupils to lapse into a convenient attitude, which means pupils who have that attitude towards school anyway may not benefit if they do not develop enthusiasm for the office or related amenities. The theoretical possibility to fail could also be seen as providing essential motivation, even if most pupils reach their personal goals; in a school with sufficient support through mentors failure should be quite unlikely. The early chance for self-motivated action allows pupils to feel free in their decisions in spite of a requirement to participate.

The assistant teacher office can also create motivation through its role model. [2] Younger pupils, who are educated by assistant teachers, may want to follow the role model and pupils in grades with assistant teachers may want to reach the same status as their peers, who have already made the step. Variable entry phases from grade eight to grade eleven can create a continual challenge for pupils to rise to the next level at their own pace. The perceived social rank of an assistant teacher can further influence the selection of desirable goals within the school community over goals derived from arbitrary role models.

According to a German study [3] pupils' enthusiasm for school may decrease towards the eighth grade. A responsible role can aid to complement enjoyment with a purpose, which is a further argument for motivating pupils to become assistant teachers in the eighth grade.

Late qualification[edit | edit source]

A possible stance of pupils is to consider late qualification as a convenient route with the least amount of work. This should, in the interest of the pupils, be discouraged. Pupils who attempt to qualify too late may fail to qualify and may have to repeat a grade. Pupils who qualify too late may be insufficiently trained and risk disqualification at a critical time. They may also risk not to have participated in the democratic control of the assistant teacher effort. Class teachers should warn against late qualification beginning with the ninth grade (assuming the above entry phase).

It may be interesting to conduct a survey in grade nine and to ask pupils about their intended qualification date. Pupils who do not yet have any plan to qualify or who intend to qualify as late as possible may require individual attention and self-management training.

Timetable[edit | edit source]

A good arrangement is a reserved time slot in the timetable that allows assistant teachers to participate as assistant teachers in other classes. Assistant teacher training as a subject [4] can reserve that time slot. A different opportunity is an advanced course in the afternoon, where assistant teachers cover the topics they missed in the forenoon and may be able to cover advanced topics the class or basic course cannot cover. [5] Advanced courses can, of course, also make more use of autonomous group work and solitary learning. A third opportunity is physical education, where assistant teachers can easily participate in a different sports course, even a sports course of another grade.

Repeating a course[edit | edit source]

A timetable can also be designed to allow repeating a course, which should be seen as preferable to repeating a grade. Even if this is not directly related to the assistant teacher program the advice is included here, because repeating a grade can promote demotivation and learned helplessness, which the assistant teacher program is designed to avoid. It is recommended that only the accumulated effects of repeating courses and/or disqualification as an assistant teacher could force a pupil to repeat a grade (e.g. multiple disqualifications). Having to repeat a single course when the grade point average still warrants attending the next grade also makes the academic results more accessible to younger pupils, which should be an indication that it is the preferable procedure.

With an assistant teacher program a school is likely to begin allowing qualified students to take courses outside their class already in junior high school and the same way unqualified pupils can be given the opportunity to repeat courses outside their class. A pupil may have to change to a different class (in his own grade) that has the relevant subject in the appropriate time slot to allow attending a class from a different grade for the same subject. If this becomes too difficult to arrange a pupil may be forced to repeat a whole grade for administrative reasons. A pupil who fails to qualify as an assistant teacher and who is seen as immature (as determined by citizenship grades [6]) may have to repeat a grade for the benefit of the pupil.

Pupils should receive recommendations to repeat courses voluntarily if their grades indicated that repetition of one or more courses could be beneficial. Repeating a course voluntarily is much more likely than repeating a grade voluntarily, which should be a further indication that repeatable courses are the desirable solution, because the pupils are invited to act responsibly and to assume an adult perspective.

Some US schools allow to repeat courses in the following semester or the following year, as after school courses, during summer school or as a combination of after school courses and summer school. A course that is repeated during the following semester or year may, for instance, be taken in place of an elective subject. Repeatable courses are offered as early as middle school.

A trimester schedule can give pupils an increased number of course options over the year and can make voluntarily repeatable courses an even more plausible option; the trimester schedule can also be more accessible to younger pupils, who haven't yet acquired a sufficiently long-term perspective. For younger pupils main lesson blocks can also be used to accommodate the short-term perspective of younger children, to promote interdisciplinary understanding and to allow for changing interests. Contrary to use in Waldorf pedagogy main lesson blocks could be selected like elective courses sometimes; the close relation to a single class teacher found in Waldorf pedagogy could be seen as less important due to the increased supportiveness of the school community through assistant teachers and mentors. An alternative between main lesson and trimester is a four by four schedule or other quarterly schedule with course changes every 45 days.

  It is vital that pupils are provided with structured opportunities to explore actively aspects, issues and events through school and community involvement, case studies and critical discussions that are challenging and relevant to their lives.  

Crick Report

Achieving self-regulation[edit | edit source]

Under ideal conditions an assistant teacher program should be self-regulatory. To achieve this school policy must define a framework in which an assistant teacher group has to function. School policy should define a set of questions the assistant teacher group should have to address in their own set of policies or their training handbook. Where possible school policy should not present options but allow the assistant teachers to devise their own procedures. (A school can, however, allow an assistant teacher group to fail to address some questions. The remaining pupils can then point out that the assistant teacher group is illegitimate, which is an intended intermediate goal in citizenship education during the first year of an assistant teacher effort.) School policy should also define reliable standards for monitoring and intervention, because a group of assistant teachers may otherwise fail in unexpected ways. An important means to maintain self-regulation is to motivate assistant teacher groups to protect their autonomy from interventions by the school administration, which is why the default process a school administration is likely to employ when no pupil-defined process exists should be a process designed to irritate (a "monday process"). One could see this as the attempt to take motivation for self-management even further as in democratic schools, where the motivation is induced by the absence of any other authority than self-administration, whereas here self-administration is a self-evident necessity for smaller groups with the additional motivation of the need to protect a group's independence.

Discontinuation of a pupil-defined qualification process[edit | edit source]

  The first endeavour in moral education is the formation of character. Character consist in readiness to act in accordance with 'maxims'. At first they are school 'maxims', and later 'maxims' of mankind. At first the child obeys rules. 'Maxims' are also rules, but subjective rules. They proceed from the understanding of man. No infringement of school discipline must be allowed to go unpunished, although the punishment must always fit the offence. 

On education (Über Pädagogik), Immanuel Kant

The most crucial problem is the disqualification of assistant teachers. If the assistant teachers are allowed to enact their own process for disqualification, wich is the recommended procedure, the disqualification process can fail. The faculty should be able to react to that problem with well-considered steps: School policy should define criteria for permitted intervention and required intervention. Permitted intervention can require the faculty to consult a parent representative committee and can serve as an early warning for an independent group of assistant teachers: When the parent representative committee has consented to allow an intervention the assistant teachers are likely to become very cautious not to provoke that intervention. Terminating a process designed by pupils can involve the entire disqualification of an independent group of assistant teachers (but not necessarily all assistant teachers of a class or grade) or merely discontinuation of a process and a probationary period during which the group of assistant teachers has to reorganize to meet the demands of the assistant teachers office or lose assistant teacher qualification.

Policy committee[edit | edit source]

On the side of the school administration ratification of pupil-defined policies should require the approval of the responsible policy committee for a grade. Each grade can have its own policy committee consisting of class teachers, advisory teachers and school counselors. A parent representative committee can be invited to delegate representatives to a policy committee. If pupils demand participation pupils from the grade in question can be granted observer status and representatives from higher grades can be allowed to vote as a minority.

A policy committee can give a recommendation whether a set of policies appeared advisable or not but should only reject a set of policies if the policies were found to be in contradiction with school policy or other regulations or did seem otherwise inappropriate.

Coeducation[edit | edit source]

ToDo: Coeducation and designed community

Mixed-sex education may often be stopping short of mixing the genders timely and with appropriate psychological effects, therefore a gender policy should require that girls and boys form mixed-gender groups frequently (recommended is every other time) and with changing group members. The intended effect is to reduce segregation that otherwise happens spontaneously. The rationale is that the segregation effect between young girls and boys may be cause of prejudice and habit, both potentially detrimental. Consequently the choice should be single-sex education or a gender policy that requires mixed-gender groups.

It is recommended that both genders are given sufficient opportunity to form single-sex committees, because especially girls appear to benefit occasionally from the opportunity to train debate skills in single-sex environments. A class can, for instance, occasionally split the class council into a girls' council and a boys' council, creating the intentional problem of a possible tie, which then has to be resolved in joined debate. One could say, both groups should be given opportunity and, if necessary, be encouraged to withdraw and discuss a topic independently before the topic is decided in the class council.

Assistant teacher groups can be allowed to be single-sex groups in middle school and junior high school but should be required to admit both genders in high school. The rationale is that allowing single-sex groups can possibly be beneficial for the development of young girls but pupils in high school should no longer require the separation, otherwise the problem should be seen as an educational problem of the school.

Independent study[edit | edit source]

Schools may easily abdicate responsibility for training pupils to pursue independent study, because the school is usually not the right place for solitary learning. Consequently schools expect pupils to solve their homework alone and without guidance or with the help of private tuition institutes or private teachers. [7] The circumstances of homework also commonly require convenient verifiability and identical exercises for the whole class or course, which inhibits interest-driven learning.

Self-study semester[edit | edit source]

The Swiss canton school Zürcher Oberland in Wetzikon has implemented a self-study semester during which pupils in grade five (commonly the eleventh grade) learn for themselves in two subjects for one semester, but are offered guidance by their subject teachers once a week. While a self-study semester appears to be suitable to employ and test the ability of a student to maintain self-motivated learning for a full semester it isn't a framework to train the required skills. The self-study semester is embedded into a framework of other self-study modules with shorter duration at the school.

A beneficial combination with mentoring could be achieved if a high-school pupil was assigned as a mentor, during his self-study semester, to a younger pupil who was given self-study tasks himself. A psychological effect should be that the mentor, by helping the younger pupil learn to study, can learn to apply the same mental vocabulary to his own study, which should allow the mentor to refresh skills acquired earlier, possibly under the new perspective as a mentor.

Individual curriculum[edit | edit source]

  It is important that a school’s curriculum articulates standards and benchmarks, emphasizes cross curricular strands and fosters an understanding of essential questions. <...> The high standards set for achievement are gauged through individual learning goals, external measures of achievement, and careful review of multiple facets of student performance.  

International Schools Services

An individual curriculum [8] can also have a significant influence on a pupil's self-study skills. An individual curriculum should allow the pupil to experience interest-driven learning, which can be completely lacking in school, depending on the situation and perspective of the pupil.

Self-study modules[edit | edit source]

A school can allow qualified assistant teachers and tutors to form learning groups and self-study courses. The supervision by a responsible head tutor may be advisable. Self-study in school should be open for monitoring by subject teachers and other teacher, which means an overview of available self-study courses should be made available publicly and every course should be assigned to a department conference or, at least, a single subject teacher. Teachers should have the opportunity to attend self-study courses organized by pupils as auditors or to send guest students as auditors.

Self-study modules can be offered beginning somewhere between grade nine and grade ten with the first availability of tutors. Assistant teachers should be considered pupils in self-study courses, only tutors have qualified as lecturers and only head tutors (mentors) have qualified as supervisors for a whole course. The organization of a self-study course may make that distinction negligible but tutors should retain the responsibility to make a self-study module work and head tutors should retain the responsibility to supervise the work of tutors and to request help from teachers where necessary. Participation in self-study modules can be restricted by grade averages: The better a pupil's grade averages are the more self-study modules the pupil can attend. Sufficient grades in a specific subject should also be a precondition for participation in self-study modules related to the subject.

Solitary study[edit | edit source]

Solitary study allows pupils to learn to appreciate self-motivated learning. Pupils who work primarily in learning groups may not learn to study without support from a learning group. The necessary attitude and self-management skills for solitary study can be trained together with a mentor or private teacher. An individual curriculum is a good opportunity to allow the pupil to experience self-motivated learning in a context where motivation is not a problem. Doing homework alone is not the same as solitary study because homework has a strong external motivation and a very limited scope.

Tracking[edit | edit source]

advanced advanced+
regular regular+
basic basic+

Course levels can invite pupils to consider striving for a higher academic level if courses are categorized according to two or three levels of academic challenge and an additional plus attribute which signifies that a course aims for a higher academic level than required by the curriculum, like a honors course. The additional academic challenge can comprise additional lessons and course units and voluntary or mandatory self-study modules. Participants of 'plus' courses can expect the additional advantages of better qualification for exams, separation from less motivated or less interested pupils and a higher potential for interest-driven learning. The 'plus' courses on basic and regular level should aim to prepare participants to migrate to the next higher level. While not all courses have to be offered on every level (or with or without the 'plus' attribute) a school with a STEM branch can, for instance, make a commitment to offer all course levels for which demand exists in the relevant subjects for much smaller groups of pupils than would justify a course in other subjects. If a school cannot offer a specific course due to low participation an alternative can also be learning groups with or without tutors. Cooperation with neighboring schools can allow pooling between several schools and enable pupils to attend the school that offers the best selection of courses for the individual pupil or to attend a second school for a smaller selection of courses, possibly through courses transmitted over the internet from that school. Pooling between grades can allow pupils to repeat courses and to take more advanced courses early.

Voluntary courses and elective subjects[edit | edit source]

Pupils who acquire an attitude bordering on learned helplessness don't raise the hand to indicate the fact. More likely signs are accompanying effects like lack of interest, boredom and disrespect towards educators. Bringing about or tolerating an attitude bordering on learned helplessness could in some cases (or in an exaggerated view) be seen as abuse of basic rights. Consequently a school would have to offer every pupil at least a minimum of interest-driven learning to compensate a potential psychological effect of curriculum-driven learning.

A school can support individual curricula with voluntary courses and elective subjects that match the areas of interest of the pupils. Voluntary courses can be restricted to pupils who have qualified as assistant teachers or can require guest lecturers to be assistant teachers, which is both suitable to increase the status of the assistant teacher office. To provide a suitable background for qualifying projects voluntary courses can also be used to invite participants to prepare and hold lessons in order to qualify as assistant teachers.

Interest-driven learning[edit | edit source]

One could see an assistant teacher effort as a means to facilitate interest-driven learning in more than one way. It may still be advisable to take further steps to improve the situation of interested learners towards disinterested learners and to turn disinterested learners into interested learners, if feasible.

Interested learners are bound to be the better assistant teachers but the distinction between interested and disinterested learner is not indisputable. A pupil may appear to be an interested participant in one course or as an assistant teacher and appear to be quite disinterested in another course. Elective subjects or courses are not a general solution to the problem if pupils are required to participate in certain courses to satisfy curricular requirements. Fully voluntary advanced courses with a higher number of hours than standard advanced courses can address the problem. IB Diploma Programme or AP courses could possibly serve this purpose in high school. The additional hours and the higher academic level of the course can be construed to require additional work as assistant teachers by the participants.

All pupils, but especially disinterested learners, should receive individual guidance by advisory teachers, school counselors and mentors. Mentors should be most suitable to spot individual problems of their protégés and to fine-tune an individual curriculum.

Interest-driven learning can be facilitated in class by freedom of choice in special "open space" lessons, where the topic of the lesson is decided by a prior democratic vote of the class council and can ignore the curriculum. The democratic vote can give the class teacher a better insight into the creativity, motivation and interests of the pupils. A class can split into several learning groups if the result of the vote is to pursue different topics. A special lesson can also offer one or several pupils the opportunity to present voluntary homework projects with self-chosen topics, which can contribute to their qualification as assistant teachers.

Disinterested pupils[edit | edit source]

Disinterested pupils who cannot even be seriously interested in individual topics tailored to their personal interests need special attention by mentors and school counselors. [9] The attitude not to be interested in any kind of education should be considered an alarming problem that requires attention. A possible counter measure is to reduce the academic level of a pupil's courses, at least temporarily, and to increase participation in courses motivated by leisure topics. [10] Mentors and school counselors should, of course, monitor the result.

Unchallenged pupils[edit | edit source]

Disinterested pupils can also be unchallenged pupils; it is an oversimplification to assume that good pupils are proficient, motivated and disciplined. An assistant teacher effort provides a way for pupils to increase their intellectual challenge by becoming assistant teachers but not all sufficiently proficient pupils may qualify. An unchallenged pupil who does not yet qualify as assistant teacher may also require special attention in an individual curriculum so as not to spoil motivation in school. An indication for a disinterested but unchallenged pupil can be significantly better grades in written tests than in verbal contributions. This is, however, neither a necessary condition nor a sufficient condition, as a pupil with decreasing motivation may quickly show less success in written tests as well. One could at least speculate that unchallenged pupils are an easily disregarded problem if the focus of attention is on a one dimensional scale (grades), which doesn't alert educators to the fact until the problem has escalated and the unchallenged pupil is just a less good pupil with a motivational problem. Qualified assistant teachers and ability grouping can help to address this issue on an individual basis. Pupils who respond to different challenges may also require different learning trails (not to distinguish approaches to a topic but to distinguish learning methods).

Reduced course[edit | edit source]

A reduced course can be a course that is partially replaced by self-study modules to make room for interest-driven learning of assistant teachers or voluntary advanced courses. A reduced course can mean that the hours per week are reduced or that the same time slot in the time table is used for two different subjects in the first and in the second half of a semester with the remainder of curricular units being delegated to self-study modules. A precondition for a reduced course is that a pupil can be expected to successfully and effectively learn the material of a curricular unit in a subject that lies outside his areas of interest or that a teacher, mentor or private tutor can be expected to teach the necessary self-management skills during the self-study module.

Professional development[edit | edit source]

To promote an attitude of lifelong learning it is suggested that schools could require teachers to qualify in additional subjects at a minimum rate of one subject in ten years. Novice teachers qualified in only one subject can be encouraged to qualify in an additional subject in the first five years. The rationale is that teachers qualified to teach in several subjects can form better teaching teams that attend to a single group of pupils (a grade, class or other group). A teaching team can cooperate in different ways, including teaching alternating lessons or curricular units in two subjects or teaching in the same classroom at once on occasion. An advantage of teaching alternating curricular units in two subjects is that both teachers get to know their group of pupils in both subjects, which improves the feasibility of cooperative evaluation and encourages cooperation between teachers.

A school can arrange for a distance learning institute to be continually available for all faculty members in order to allow qualification in additional subjects. Mentoring between teachers, teaching teams and grade teams can be used to encourage the view of the faculty as another learning community. The example of the faculty as lifelong learners can also be employed as a role model for assistant teachers, tutors and mentors.

Facilities and services[edit | edit source]

  The library/media centre lies at the heart of the school's curricular programme. It should be an integral part of your core programme.  

Council of International Schools

A school with an assistant teacher program may need additional facilities and services. The school library (or Learning Resource Centre) should be sufficiently large to allow pupils to withdraw for undisturbed, solitary learning. Internet access should be available to a sufficiently large group of pupils to allow internet research. Research terminals can be slow, monochrome, USB-connected e-paper displays under X-Windows and use an internet proxy that restricts sites to the The National Science Digital Library, Google Scholar and similar indices. Fully functional PC or Apple computers can be put in a different location (with whatever access policy), which is likely to allow more undisturbed work on the research terminals. Even if pupils have been taught media literacy the whole internet may be a bit too interesting and too full of games for the pupils to focus on research with sufficient reliability. Learning groups should be able to allocate their own rooms for independent courses and spontaneous tutorials (which could require the presence of a head tutor or adult teaching assistant). For this purpose full-sized class rooms can be split into two course rooms to accommodate smaller groups. Course rooms are also useful for quiet time and solitary study, because a smaller group creates fewer distractions.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. coopetition
  2. the assistant teacher role model
  3. study: „Happiness of children in Germany“ (German Wikinews)
  4. assistant teacher training as a subject
  5. advanced courses for assistant teachers
  6. grades for social behavior
  7. private tutors (Mentoring Handbook, Wikibooks)
  8. individual curriculum
  9. guidance counseling and mentoring
  10. individual curriculum: leisure topics
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