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Volume 4, Issue 19

October 2008

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Challenges of Curriculum
(part 2)

By Salima Moosa Sewani

Teaching is indeed a much respected but a challenging profession. The knowledge and expertise of a teacher helps him/her to fight back the challenges, but a positive Ďlearningí attitude is also required. I believe that we all are in a learning process. Every day we learn something new by making mistakes. 

This article is a continuation of the previous article from our first September issue.

The most challenging task for the religion teacher is to integrate and implement the curriculum of primary and secondary effectively. The primary curriculum is not fulfilling the needs of mentally challenged people. During my teaching experience at the Aga Khan special people religious school, I have deeply analyzed that most of the teachers could not teach the primary Taílim curriculum to them, because the Intellectual Quotient  of exceptional people is comparatively lower than normal children studying in religious education centre.  I am a proud of the challenged students, who wants to do every thing to fulfill their religious needs as well. I courageously took this challenge and participated in a master training program in inclusive education with few teachers. I also joined Pakistan association research in education to acquire continuous trainings. We developed few lessons plan resources and developed IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) which helped teachers to teach borderline children about faith Tariqah and basic ethics in a diluted form. 

I would suggest that there should be a same curriculum book for them in a more diluted form or there should be a permission granted to the teachers to amend curriculum according to their desires. 

I have one example of my student A. She is in class 7 in Religious Education Centre. She is borderline student. She shared the difficulties which she faced a month back with me. She told me that my class teacher had failed me in all the subjects and forced me to repeat the class; but I donít want to sit in the same class for the third time. I asked but she refused, because this was third time teacher failed me. When I asked teacher, she told me that A doesnít understand anything. Therefore, and we canít promote her. When I asked few questions to A regarding the chapters of history, she was unable to reply even a single question due to typical curriculum for children with special needs.  

Before my teaching practicum, I observed the religious school for a few days, and I found a competitive atmosphere to teach secondary curriculum, given by ITREB for a time being. Teachers are planning lesson plans ineffectively and most of the teachers are not participating in the teacher training courses due to busy schedule. I hope that the future curriculum of secondary will provide adequate knowledge of the subjects to the students for leading a religious life in this progressive world. 

Challenging in the classroom is the most competitive part for teachers. Whether itís a religious or a secular school, class room interaction is very important while teaching. If there will be no proper classroom interaction, then a child will not grow as per need. Classroom interaction plays a vital and crucial role in effective learning of the children. Teachers are facing lots of challenges during their classroom interaction.  

One of the most important challenges teachers are facing is favoritism. During my observation at the Government school, I saw teachers were giving value to those students which s/he likes a lot and appreciate those, who are extra ordinary brilliant in classroom. Those who are good at studies got the least marks in exams just because of the favoritism of a teacher.  Teachers arenít motivating and encouraging those children whoíre shy and feeble in studies. Their learning becomes stuck due to the wrong attitude of a teacher. I personally faced that challenge, when my supporting teacher was appreciating favoritism in class room. I saw one reserved child in my class, who was avoided by the teacher, most of the time. A was the shy child in my class. He didnít speak a single sentence in class. I always supported him by praising him and inspiring all the time and tried my best to engage him in group activities. 

Another challenge of classroom interaction is communication. Teachers cannot teach the students in their cultural language, if s/he may find an exceptional case of different background student in his/her class. When I was teaching in Afghan camp back in 1999, the most important challenge I faced was the challenge of communication. They understood neither Urdu nor English. They only used to communicate in Persian. Whenever I taught in Urdu, they laughed which led to disciplinary problems. I took this challenge and worked hard to learn few foundational words and sentences of Persian language. After working hard, I was at least able to communicate them. I also was able to maintain discipline after that.  

One more challenge facing by the teachers is lack of planning in teaching, which I also faced in special night school.  Classroom interaction doesnít mean within the class, it means to create classroom environment any where, especially for special students. When I joined religious school, I observed that the main focus of all the teachers was on theoretical learning. There was no interactive session in classroom. No indoor and outdoor activities were designed, which could help to create pleasant environment. I talked to my head and took instant action and prepared few activities for them which helped to develop their interest which they required the most rather than traditional classroom environment.                                                                  

Another issue in a class is of time management. Teachers mostly teach in the form of lecture without pre-planning. And when they feel that time is running out, few of the teachers end up their lesson by leaps and bounds, that the students sometimes feel as if their opinions are not being given enough priority. I believe, that a lesson should be pre- planned and if, incase, teachers will not be able to cover the course on time, even then, they should at least make the most out of their teaching.  

An important challenge in the classroom is classroom management as itís very important to create and sustain healthy environment in the class through which child learning capability will be developed. When I started teaching in Karachi Kids University, I was given a room with no proper arrangement for children. There was very limited space; but the number of students was more due to which students were not feeling comfortable. I went to the administrator and asked her to divide students into two groups and allocate another class through which they can study at ease. After that initiative, children thoroughly enjoyed the studies. Our books also reflect that males are dominant in our society. 

Dr. Zaira Wahab expresses his opinion, 
ďGender inequality is a problem embedded in the fabric of Pakistanís social structure. The problem emanates at the primary level, as low participation and high dropouts at this stage prevent females from reaching higher education and equitable opportunities for such furtherance do not become available to the female gender...Öwhen both girls and boys are given opportunity to practice language in classroom activities, the girls will get lesser practice chances as their dialogues are shorter and fewer.Ē2 

I agree, because during my teaching practicum in Government school, the challenge that I faced was of gender biasness. I saw many teachers giving importance and lots of attention to boys rather than girls. Females were discouraged to participate in class room. Due to that gender biasness, girls showed lack of interest in studies and their grades were low as compared to boys. During my teaching practicum, I tried to assure females students of their equal importance in class participation.  I gave equal importance to both genders by which female students feel relaxed and their curiosity towards learning was developed. 

I must conclude,

ďSometimes struggle are exactly what we need in our life. If nature allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us.Ē( anonymous) 

Salima Moosa Sewani has been in the field of teaching for 7 years. She is running her own Learning Center and also working with the Exceptional People in Pakistan. She is a Master Trainer and has done many teaching certifications.

 

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  TECH CORNER

Are We Moving Into A Post-Literate Society?

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Mark's latest articles deal with the change to 21st Century Learning.

Are we moving into a POST-LITERATE society?

I know this question might knock you over, but please stop and think about it. Wikipedia defines a post-literate society as: a society wherein multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read written words, is no longer necessary. This doesnít mean they canít read, but choose to meet their main information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming. Now think about the students you have today. What do they choose to do first for pleasure, read a book, or do they seek multi-media stimulation?

Doug Johnson, writer of the Blue Skunk Blog, wrote a blog titled Libraries for a post-literate society I and is located at:

http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2008/8/13/libraries-for-a-post-literate-society-i.html

He later followed it with two more blogs titled:  Libraries for a post-literate society II and In defense of postliteracy.  Doug Johnsonís premise is that this isnít necessarily a bad thing. We are just returning to a 21st century style of communication that is quote: ďsimilar to more natural forms of communication - speaking, storytelling, dialogue, debate, and dramatization.Ē

If this is true, and I believe it is, because I see it all around me (including my three teenagers), think of the ramifications it should have on education. Are we making the change in our classrooms to meet these challenges? From what Iím reading from top educational speakers and from my observations around me, not much is changing. Is it a wonder we are losing the students in school?  They are checking out on us because we continue to teach in the old way. As one parent said to me today,  ďWhy donít they learn it like we did?Ē My reply was that these kids arenít us. This is not a generational gap. This is a major paradigm change in the way kids think and interact with their world.

So, what are you doing or going to do about this change? The first place to start is to begin reading what others are saying and what research is telling us. Check out the blogs of Doug Johnson, Ian Jukes, David Warlick, Will Richardson, Kathy Schrock, or Tony Vincent, to name a few. Become part of an online community of teachers such as: (http://www.classroom20.com/) and discuss this topic. Observe your students and ask them what excites them. This will get you started, but it is only the beginning. In closing, letís look back at that question again. Are we moving into a post-literate society? Itís something to think about.

Next month Iíll talk about ideas on how to address this issue in the classroom. Now go do your homework and see what others are saying.

Great BLOGS to read on the changes in the way students learn

Doug Johnson The Blue Skunk Blog
Ian Jukes The Committed Sardine
David Warlick Two Cents Worth
Will Richardson WeBloggEd
Kathy Schrock Kaffeeklatsch
Tony Vincent Learning In Hand

 

Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 21 year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.  He is currently working on Masters of Integration of Technology from Walden University. 

Prior to teaching, Mark spent 11 years as Department Manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co. dealing with emerging technologies.  He has been married to his wife Bonnietta for 33 years with one daughter and two sons.  In the summers, Mark works for Mackinac State Historic Parks in the as a historical interpreter.

StarTeaching Featured Writer

Mark Benn is a leading expert in using technology in the classroom.  
You can feel free to contact him on email at mbenn@inlandlakes.org or at his blogsite:  http://www.furtrader.blogspot.com/ 

 

Check out our selection of past articles, including more about groups and stations, from previous issues at:

http://www.starteaching.com/newsletter.htm


 

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A Brief History of Educational Reform (part 4)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Most states and districts in the 1990s adopted Outcomes Based Education in some form or another. The process usually was an umbrella for other disputed methods, such as constructivist mathematics and whole language. A state would create a committee to adopt standards, and a performance based assessment to assess "learning outcomes" which might look somewhat like a content based test, or something that parents might violently reject with very little recognizably academic content. A "Certificate of Mastery" would replace the diploma. At the start of the 1990s, "outcomes" tended to be nonacademic, but towards the 2000s, the term "high standards" instead was adopted, often resulting in very difficult tests. In the 2000s, many states are slated to require passing these tests to get a diploma, compared to the earlier tradition that any student who got a D average and attended for 4 years would graduate with one. States would spend millions to implement these reform programs. Other reform movements were School To Work, which would require all students to spend substantial class time on a job site.

Education reform has been pursued for a variety of specific reasons, but generally most reforms aim at redressing some societal ills, such as poverty-, gender-, or class-based inequities, or perceived ineffectiveness. Reforms are usually proposed by thinkers who aim to redress societal ills or institute societal changes, most often through a change in the education of the members of a class of peopleóthe preparation of a ruling class to rule or a working class to work, the social hygiene of a lower or immigrant class, the preparation of citizens in a democracy or republic, etc. The idea that all children should be provided with a high level of education is a relatively recent idea, and has arisen largely in the context of Western democracy in the 20th century.

States have tried to use state schools to increase state power, especially to make better soldiers and workers. This strategy was first adopted to unify related linguistic groups in Europe, such as Germany and Italy. Exact mechanisms are unclear, but it often fails in areas where populations are culturally segregated, as when the U.S. Indian school service failed to suppress Lakota and Navaho, or when a culture has widely-respected autonomous cultural institutions, as when the Spanish failed to suppress Catalan.

Many students of democracy have desired to improve education in order to improve the quality of governance in democratic societies; the necessity of good public education follows logically if one believes that:

1. the quality of democratic governance depends on the ability of citizens to make informed, intelligent choices, and
2. education can improve these abilities.

Politically-motivated educational reforms of the democratic type are recorded as far back as Plato, whose book The Republic was essentially a thought experiment on education reform. In the United States of America, this lineage of democratic education reform was continued by Thomas Jefferson, who advocated ambitious reforms partly along Platonic lines for public schooling in Virginia.

Another motivation for reform is the desire to address socioeconomic problems, which many people see as having significant roots in lack of education. Starting in the twentieth century, people have attempted to argue that small improvements in education can have large returns in such areas as health, wealth and well-being. For example, in Kerala, India in the 1950s, increases in women's health were correlated with increases in female literacy rates. In Iran, increased primary education was correlated with increased farming efficiencies and income. In both cases some researchers have concluded these correlations as representing an underlying causal relationship: education causes socioeconomic benefits. In the case of Iran, researchers concluded that the improvements were due to farmers gaining reliable access to national crop prices and scientific farming information.

Libertarian theorists such as Milton Friedman advocate School choice to eliminate any need for formal accountability. Public educational vouchers would permit guardians to select and pay any school, public or private, with public funds. The theory is that children's guardians will shop for the best schools.

Home education is favored by some parents who directly take responsibility for their children's education, eliminating accountability by public officials.

Montessori Pre- and Primary school programs employ alternative methods of guided exploration, embracing children's natural curiosity rather than scolding it for falling out of rank.

Some of the methods and reforms have gained permanent advocates, and are widely utilized.

Many educators now believe that anything that more precisely meets the needs of the child will work better. This was initiated by M. Montessori and is still utilized in Montessori schools.

The teaching method must be teachable! This is a lesson from both Montessori and Dewey. This view now has very wide currency, and is used to select much of the curricula of teachers' colleges.

Conservative programs are often based on classical education, which is seen by conservatives to reliably teach valuable skills in a developmentally appropriate order to the majority of Myers-Briggs temperaments, by teaching facts.

Programs that test individual learning, and teach to mastery of a subject have been proven by the state of Kentucky to be far more effective than group instruction with compromise schedules, or even class-size reduction

Schools with limited resources, such as most public schools and most third-world and missionary schools, use a grammar-school approach. The evidence of Lancaster schools suggests using students as teachers. If the culture supports it, perhaps the economic discipline of the Lancaster school can reduce costs even further. However, much of the success of Lancaster's "school economy" was that the children were natives of an intensely mercantile culture.

In order to be effective, classroom instruction needs to change subjects at times near a typical student's attention span, which can be as frequently as every two minutes for young children. This is an important part of Marva Collins' method.

The Myers-Briggs temperaments fall into four broad categories, each sufficiently different to justify completely different educational theories. Many developmental psychologists say that it might be socially profitable to test for and target temperaments with special curricula.

Some of the Myers-Briggs temperaments are known to despise educational material that lacks theory. Therefore, effective curricula need to raise and answer "which" and "why" questions, to teach students with "intuitive" (Myers-Briggs) modalities.

Philosophers identify independent, logical reasoning as a precondition to most western science, engineering, economic and political theory. Therefore, every educational program that desires to improve students' outcomes in political, health and economic behavior should include a Socratic-taught set of classes to teach logic and critical thinking.

Substantial resources and time can be saved by permitting students to test out of classes. This also increases motivation, directs individual study, and reduces boredom and disciplinary problems.

To support inexpensive continuing adult education a community needs a free public library. It can start modestly as shelves in an attended shop or government building, with donated books. Attendants are essential to protect the books from vandalism. Adult education repays itself many times over by providing direct opportunity to adults. Free libraries are also powerful resources for schools and businesses.

New programs based on modern learning theories should be quantitatively investigated for effectiveness, as was done by KERA

A notable reform of the education system of Massachusetts occurred in 1993.

The current student voice effort echoes past school reform initiatives focusing on parent involvement, community involvement, and other forms of participation in schools. However, it is finding a significant amount of success in schools because of the inherent differences: student voice is central to the daily schooling experience because students spend all day there. Many educators today strive for meaningful student involvement in their classrooms, while school administrators, school board members, and elected officials each lurch to hear what students have to say.

 

Article courtesy of K12Academics.com

K12Academics.com

 

 

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In The Haunting of Sigma, Frank Holes, Jr. returns fans of the legendary Dogman to the wild world of cryptozoology in Northern Michigan .  This darker, far more sinister prequel to Holesís first novel fully establishes his hold upon the imaginations of readers all over the Midwest .  June 1987 ushers in the hot, dry summer season, but something else far more horrifying has taken up residence in the deep wilderness in Kalkaska County .  The Dogman, a supernatural combination of canine and man, has returned to wreck havoc upon the tiny, sleepy community of Sigma.

 

Based upon the epic Greek tale of The Odyssey, yet set in the American Wild West, The Longquist Adventures: Western Odyssey chronicles the journey of a young boy and his guide through a perilous world of dangerous encounters and fantastic creatures.  It is a world of gun fights at high noon, stampedes on the great plains, stagecoach robbery, and an ultimate showdown with a ruthless, powerful gangster aboard a turn-of-the-century paddlewheel in the San Francisco Bay.  Can the time-traveling boy and the law-abiding Marshal restore order to the chaos of the American West gone truly wild?
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Click Here For The
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The Dogman, a creature of MythMichigan, is an excellent example of modern-day folklore to study in your classes.   

http://www.dogman07.com

The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  

Western Odyssey, the first novel in the series, is now available!

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Positive Parent Conferences

It's parent-teacher conference time! Some are positive experiences where teachers are able to make great connections with parents. And yet other meetings are foretold by apprehension and met with strife.  Over the years, you will encounter the gamut of positive and negative experiences, and everything in between. However, there are strategies you can use to make the best of any situation.

It is extremely important to make a good first impression (even if you already know the parents). Make eye contact with them, and greet the parents with a firm handshake. No weak grips! If you've never met the parents, stand up to introduce yourself. Welcome them with a smile. Remember that you are building relationships, and setting the tone for the conference.

A good way to open the conference is to ask how the student is doing in other classes. Ask about their other grades, and start building an overall picture. You will often find the student's strong and weak areas, and you may even find surprises. I've found students who were failing every class but mine. And I've found the opposite too. A good overall picture can really give you a new perspective on your students.

Always try to say something positive. Even in the cloudiest of situations, you should find some ray of sunshine. And if you do have bad news to share, opening with good news can help ease the transition.

Be objective with bad news. Give truthful and accurate facts, and keep from making speculations. Make sure you have your facts straight! Work with parents, and try to offer suggestions. Most parents will look to you for ideas. Plan what you'll say ahead of time. If you've taken the time to get to know your students well, you'll find the conferences easier.

Positive parents are what we all expect and hope for. They come in with an open mind, are pleasant, and are willing to both listen to your comments and help with solutions to problems that do occur.  These are often very short conferences at the middle and high school levels. The parents have heard the stories all before, and with good reason; students whose parents regularly attend conferences have higher grade averages and fewer instances of behavior problems than those students whose parents rarely interact with school personnel.

The truth be known, many parents are intimidated by teachers. Many do worry that their concerns and critiques will be turned around and used against their kids. Even though teachers find this entire concept laughable and preposterous, it does, nonetheless, cross many parents' minds.

So, what do you do with a hostile parent? Diffuse the situation by being patient and listening. Sometimes its hard to just listen while parents are going off on you. They may be right or wrong, misinformed or even plain out of line. It is only a mistake to interrupt them, especially if they are on a roll. Stop yourself, focus on what they're saying, even take notes to show you're listening, and let them burn themselves out. Sometimes the hostile parents are looking for an audience, and sometimes they just need to vent. By giving them the time to 'get it all out of their system', you allow them to calm down so you both can reasonably discuss the situation.

Be sure to stand when they leave, again this is being courteous and polite. Thank them for attending. And let them know you'll contact them if anything changes. Parents generally want to be kept informed about their kids, both the good and bad.


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"Stop Waiting"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

What is the best time for...?

We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that we're frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire.

The truth is, there's no better time to be happy than right now.

Your life will always be filled with challenges. It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. One of my favorite quotes comes from Alfred D Souza. He said, "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have.

Stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter, until you are off welfare, until the first or fifteenth, until your song comes on, until you've had a drink, until you've sobered up, until you die, until you are born again to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy.


 


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In This Week's Issue 
(Click the Quick Links below):

Challenges of Curriculum (part 2)

Tech Corner: 
Are We Moving Into A Post-Literate Society?

New Teacher's Niche:
Positive Parent Conferences

Themes on Life:  
"Stop Waiting"

A Brief History of Educational Reform
(part 4)

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Autumn Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


 

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10 Days Of
Writing 
Prompts 

Day
1

What is the definition of 'DANGER'?

Day
2

List 10 Dangerous situations you must be aware of in your daily life. 

Day
3

How can you avoid Danger in your home?

Day
4

How can Danger be avoided at school?

Day
5

Write down THREE jobs that will use something we learned in class this week. 

Day
6

How can your parents help you avoid Dangerous Situations?

Day
7

How can your teachers help you avoid Dangerous Situations at school?

Day
8

What should you do if you learn of a potentially Dangerous Situation?

Day
9

Describe FIVE Dangerous Situations that could occur at school.

Day
10

List 10 new facts you learned in any class this week at school.   

 

10 days of writing prompts

 

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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1

1.    How many addition signs should be put between digits of the number 987654321 and where should we put them to get a total of 99?

Day 2

1.    Divide the face of the clock into three parts with two lines so that the sum of the numbers in the three parts are equal.

Day 3 A man has to be at work by 9:00 a.m. and it takes him 15 minutes to get dressed, 20 minutes to eat and 35 minutes to walk to work. What time should he get up?
Day 4

4.    The Riddler has left a clue for Batman to follow at the scene of each crime. These are the clues that Batman has found:

  • (1) There is a 1 in the thousands place.
  • (2) The digit in the tens place is 9 times the digit in the thousands place.
  • (3) Multiply the digit in the thousands place by 2.
  • (4) The digit in the ones place is a hand without a thumb.
  • (5) The digit in the hundreds is 2 less than the number in the tens.
Solve the riddle to find the number and help Batman stop the Riddler.
Day 5 Rachel, Kim and Shawn went to Cuba for a vacation. On the way to Cuba , the plane made the trip in 315 minutes. On the return trip, the flight took 216 minutes. They stayed in Cuba for 3629 minutes. Estimate how long the trip took to the nearest 10.

How long did the trip really take?

Day 6

Given a cube, draw a second figure with a square base, having 8 edges, 5 vertices and 5 faces

Day 7 The weather during Ericís vacation was strange. It rained on 15 different days, but it never rained for a whole day

Rainy mornings were followed by clear afternoons.

Rainy afternoons were preceeded by clear mornings.

There were 12 clear mornings and 13 clear afternoons in all.

How long was the vacation?
Day 8

If you begin with a one digit integer, multiply by 3, add 8, divide by 2 and subtract 6, you will get the integer back.

Find the number.

Day 9 If Jane is older than Kim, Kim is older than Shawn. Shawn is younger than Jane and Rachel is older than Jane.

List the people from oldest to youngest.

Day 10 There are 12 people in a room. 6 people are wearing socks and 4 people are wearing shoes, 3 people are wearing both. How many people are in bare feet?
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