Wednesday, but better

19 May 2006
8:59 AM

Tractor passing
You can’t pass cars on a bicycle, but tractors are fair game.

This is the fifth article in the Work Week series.

Friday morning I make the same morning bike ride that starts my Wednesday. Due to the gentle but very real incline, it takes 20 minutes on the way there, eight on the way back. Sometimes the distance wears on me, but the commute is enjoyable. One of the things I have learned during these early rides is that encountering a tractor offers one of the most satisfying road biking experiences possible. Passing pedestrians on a bike is too easy. It’s just what’s expected because they are lower on the transportation hierarchy. Passing cars is a futile exercise in exhaustion: it’s not going to happen. Tractors, on the other hand, are just fast enough that it’s a challenge, but not so fast that it’s an impossible one. If you pour on the steam, you can do it.

Tractor passing or not, I arrive at Pascual Baburizza just in time for a pair of sophomore English classes. Friday classes there are a joy compared with Wednesday’s. The sophomores are eager to learn, cooperative, and studious. This lets me break away from the typical tedium and teach some new things. With other sections, Alejandra and I spend hours reinforcing verb conjugations. I’d love to do other things, but as long as the students don’t study and don’t memorize (a skill I find conspicuously underpracticed here) that “am” goes with “I” and “are” goes with “you,” it’s hard to move forward. With the Friday sections we can talk about when and how to use verbs, and not just what they are in the first place.

Time goes by quickly on Friday. We play games like “What are you doing?” to practice the present progressive tense. Last week I played Ani DiFranco’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and I had the students listen for gerunds (you know, like the two in the title). Not infrequently, kids bring songs and song lyrics and ask me to help them understand. Often I tell them, “You know, this song doesn’t make sense in English either.”

After class, I eat a late lunch with the other teachers and make my downhill ride home.