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August 21, 1999 (Email)

Update: You can now send Mark email!  (See below how this is possible.)  You can send email to Mark via my email address, with the subject line "Email For Mark."


I got your e-mail and it was perfect. Bundling everyone's e-mails together will be a great way to write to me. Have Kurt put an announcement on my web page that anybody who wants to write to me can send e-mail to his address for forwarding to me. It's so much nicer than regular mail.

Since you called, I finished my first week of teaching. It's very hard, but I'm starting to enjoy it from time to time. The students, especially in seventh grade, seem really grateful to me for being there and trying to teach them. Most of the Nepali teachers don't seem to take their jobs very seriously, don't know the material they are teaching extremely well, or just teach badly (reading out of the textbook, smacking children, teaching for only 10 or 15 minutes per day). I guess the fact that things are so bad explains why somebody thought a 24 year old with no teaching experience who can barely communicate might be an improvement.

My seventh graders seem to know how to find highest common factors and lowest common multiples pretty well - but I doubt they know what they are any good for. I've tried to do some word problems in class, but I'm a little intimidated by them because of the language. There are more important things to deal with anyway -- I've discovered that my students' understanding of negative numbers, subtraction, and division is not very good. Their multiplication is ok, but only because they've memorized the tables. It's hard to guage what they know and don't know. I introduced a number line last week, and they didn't pick it up very quickly. Next week I may do examples using my  credit card to explain negative numbers.

Fourth grade is really hard. The students like me and have fun in class, but I don't know how to teach them. I can design fun activities to
review concepts they know, but I don't know how to get new concepts across. Unlike 7th grade, I can't just do examples, give them problems, and hope they will understand. One day last week, my 4th graders were very unruly and I didn't know how to handle it. When I get to my post, I'm going to request high grades. I hope I get them.

Speaking of posts, I know where I'm going!! Janakpur. It's a large city and something of a tourist/pilgrimage destination for Hindi people from India -- so I'm sure you can find a lot of information about it on the internet. There is a huge temple in the city, an airport, and what is described to me as a very good women's development center where I can volunteer (probably just being there, talking about America, and teaching some English will be very helpful). There will be other PCVs nearby, electricity, etc.  My school is actually just outside the city, so I can live in the city or outside. Down sides include -- it's a huge! city with a lot of people; it will be very polluted and dirty; it is near the Indian border and people will probably speak Hindi dialects in everyday conversation.

A line is forming to use the computer (the other computer right now is being used by two of the store owner's friends to play StarCraft).

Everything is going well. I need to prepare for my next week of teaching -- especially to figure out what I'm going to do in 4th grade. Probably addition of large numbers - yikes!

I'll be back in Dharan on the 26th -- send e-mail! I'm sure Janakpur will have e-mail as well.

Love, Mark

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