2017 Fall Marathon Training Week #7

Miles: 57.53

Because I ducked out on a mile last weekend, this week ended up being the highest mileage yet of this cycle. 

In previous years (last year especially), I set mileage highs in August. I think I ran 340 miles last August, an average of 10.5 a day, rather than the 8ish I'm doing now.

And then, as September came, the speed didn't arrive, and I was absolutely burned out.

I am hoping, now that I'm back on the track, and doing the same set of workouts weekly, that my racing will improve.

I have a race every single Sunday (aside from the week I am away) from next week through the end of September. By that point, I'll know for sure what kind of year this will be.

5k next week.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

The Value of Focused Versatility in Education

I've mentioned this before, but the best professional advice I got without knowing it was being told to "teach everyone" before I even became a professional educator.

You don't have to take it literally. I probably haven't taught people of every single age group. But, if you stick with a career long enough, you will be called upon to teach a different audience than the one you're most familiar with, and you must be able to do so.

In 2011, when I was still in grad school, I was looking for a better part-time job, and the business owner liked me and my personality, but he told me I needed more experience with adults because I was a bit too juvenile-oriented. At that point, I had only taught people up to the age of 20 or 21, and it showed.

Fast forward to now, and if you had to describe my career, it would be primarily adults.

I want to add to the original advice, though. It's not that you should just teach everyone. You should also teach everything.

Again, do not take this literally. If you want to excel, you can't just dabble and become some sort of dilettante. Teach history for a month and science for a week and grammar for a summer and professional development for a semester. No, you should (nay, must) build your skills within a broad realm (ELT? Adults? Early Childhood?), but don't become pigeonholed. Have you only taught preschool for wealthy kids? Then maybe you'll only be trusted with that population. And that could be fine, but it might not be.

If you get pigeonholed, and something happens, you'll be stuck. And if you're too unfocused, you will have built surface-level skills without rigor.

Focused versatility is the way to become a great educator.

And great educators, no matter what happens, will always be needed. I had a training today, with a guy who was exactly the way I hope my students see me. He was authentic and, above all else, sanguine. He was saddled with awful material, dry and poorly written (and surely not written by him), and yet he got us on his side and created a rapport with people whose names he will never know. That only comes from focused versatility. That's how it happens.

Trust.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

The True Evil

I have friends (or maybe they should be ex-friends) who think racism isn't that bad. Or that affirmative action is mean. That because we're not being chased by lynch mobs, things are way better.

Well, they're chasing us with cars now. And here's the president saying some of them are "fine people."

The worst part about all this, to me, is that I don't think Donald Trump really hates anyone because of their group membership, so long as their group isn't "people who don't genuflect in his presence." In 2000, he, unprompted, said the Reform party skeeved him out because it had too many racists in it (look it up).

And people like him are the problem. Always have been, always will be. No matter how many people were being lynched back in the day, it wasn't very many in the grand scheme of things. As awful as what happened this weekend was, I'm not actually afraid of Nazis when I walk out my door (maybe if I lived in the South...).

No, the true terror is the people who shrug and just focus on the handful of things, and people, that matter to them. And if those things and people benefit them, they'll smile and embrace them.

There are millions and millions of Trumps out there, just with less individual power. Are you one of them? Do you see bigotry and ignore it if it doesn't have any effect on you and yours? Do you only pay attention when it directly impacts you?

Bannon, Miller, David Duke, all those people, yeah, scum. But we knew that. I think Trump actually knows that. But for a lot of people, they'll accept scumbags if they help them do what they want.

Are you one of these people? Is your heart that small? Because, aside from the actual murderers, a piece of garbage who believes hateful things is terrible, but a person who just lets that mess slide and looks the other way, or tries to play "both sides," or defends it? That's the real evil.

And if you know that to be true of yourself or anyone you know, do the most powerful thing you can do: take your love and remove it from their life. Remove it. Deny them affection, respect, time. "Oh well it's your mother." Too bad. Remove it.

And do it now, before it all spreads even more.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

2017 Fall Marathon Training Week #6

Miles: 53 running, 6 biking

Hit my goals very well on the bridge, and the two times on the track. Today's long run, the heat got to me at the end and it's way too early to be in puke-stagger mode or anything of the sort. So I jogged a bit and then added miles on the bike.

All in all, I know what I have to do, and if I keep it up, the fall should go well. The first third of this is over. Now the middle part, which is easier and includes a vacation and only two short races, and then the gauntlet (20 miles, bronx, 23 miles, SI, 21 miles) before the taper.

I shall enjoy this semi-reprieve.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

The Last 24 Hours

I've been on a Serious Face kick on here, baring my soul and such to you. And I'll continue to do that, of course. But today I wanted to share something that I thought was pretty funny.

So, not to put the cart before the horse, but my supervisors seem to think highly of my work, because a woman left my job a couple of months ago and they turned to me yesterday and suggested I go up for it.

Since I technically work for a school, this doesn't just happen, and I have to apply for it officially. 

So I told my wife, who was happy, and told a friend, and then set some time aside today to apply.

I needed a cover letter and a resume. Easy, right? Well, not quite, because I obviously don't have a resume on my computer at my new job. I absolutely didn't expect to have to have a new resume for a while, so the resume still says I work at my last job. I also had to find a way to retrieve it. I can't use google drive (where I have it) at work, so I went into drive on my phone and downloaded it, then I emailed it to myself, then I downloaded that to my work computer.

I set about making it up to date, and then I went back over it, and I realized that, like most people, my resume sure does have some "puffery" in it, the type of wording that is grandiose because that's how we're taught to write them. It seemed silly to write that way to people I already work for, so I tweaked it. But then I thought about how they probably still have my old resume (it was only last October when I applied), so changing it might seem odd? But I still changed it a little, and messed with the formatting a bit.

And then the cover letter. Usually the cover letter is a way to introduce yourself and brag, as well as showing off your writing skills. But you can't very well introduce yourself to people who already supervise you. And you surely can't brag in that cover letter way to people you already work with.

So I wrote one that was honest about my skills (the internal promotion would certainly force me to develop skills that are currently lying dormant), and tried to balance between appreciating their support and making a case for why I'd be a good choice. It was an interesting tightrope.

And then the part on the website where they ask how I found out about the job. 

All in all, an amusing little experience. But the actual point is, I now work in a place where the people above me are 1. educators and damned good ones and 2. see talent and want to nurture and develop it. I think that's why so many people have been on this project for many years.

There are currently 19 of us working here, and more than half of us have been working here for 5 years or more. It's a good place to be, and, even if this promotion doesn't pan out, I am lucky to be here, and that they even thought of me.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Sincerely, Justin

I have come to believe that sincerity is sort of a superpower if you can harness and use it well.

But before I come around to my justification for that statement, I want to talk about what sincerity isn't.

Sincerity obviously isn't deceit or lying or BS or deliberate aloofness, but it's also not the same thing as honesty.

Let me be clear: sincere actions are also honest, but if I say to you you should be sincere, I expect you'll get a different message than if I suggested you always be honest. Honesty can be a sort of brute force 2 by 4 you whack people with. It's not dishonest to go up to someone and tell them their suit doesn't fit. If you feel it's the truth, that's honesty. But is it sincere? Does it forge a connection with that person to share your thoughts on their attire? Or does it just get something off your chest?

Being sincere doesn't necessarily make you right. It can indeed make you very wrong. Look no further than the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, where people literally don't want to be kind to groups they don't approve of due to sincerely held beliefs.

What sincerity does, though, is it lets you exhale. It lets you stop beating your chest and sticking it out to impress others (or yourself). When you are sincere, you can connect on a deeper level, and there are very few jobs or relationships where that isn't crucial to success.

I have at times battled a reputation of being smarmy, when what I was trying to do, as ever, was be accepted by some group that I thought would only want me if I played up certain qualities I may or may not have had. I've also been seen as less than kind, when those failures to be accepted curdled into a stubborn commitment to honesty at a time when most of my thoughts were angry or despondent.

As time wears on and I learn more, though, I think about my very first class, March 5th 2008. I had planned an entire presentation to my new students, people who were, for some reason, actually impressed by my presence. Yet they weren't interested in much I had to say, and I ended up having to kill time because I ran out of material. I started padding it, and the only time I connected with that first group was when I talked about how bad I was at baseball. They loved it! And I thought, incorrectly, that making fun of myself was what caught their attention. But no. I realize now it was the authenticity and sincerity in my voice as I reached that section.

The funny thing is, as I said above, you can be sincere and wrong. It turns out I am actually pretty athletic (though I'm still bad at baseball). At the moment, though, it was entirely sincere to say and feel that sports had sort of passed me by.

And being sincere involves vulnerability, so it can hurt a lot more than a stiff upper lip. I won't come out here and tell people who have suffered much more than I have to live inside their trauma. But if you need to communicate with anyone (and you probably do), don't try to be the smartest person ever to exist, even if you are (and I sure do think I'm smart a lot of the time).

Exhale. Deflate. And be sincere. You might be able to "win" by being insincere, or supercilious, or sarcastic, but will you truly succeed? I think not.

Sincerely,

Justin

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

2017 Fall Marathon Training Week #5

Miles: 41ish (race week means fewer before and after)

Good and bad week. Hit my bridge pace more or less, really failed on race day as you saw yesterday.

This hereby marks the end of part 1 of marathon training. I've built a base (and will continue to up the longest run, but otherwise my routine will be fairly similar). And the results thus far are encouraging in every way except for racing. My form is improved, my cramping has gone away with the salt pills and I lost some weight. But races are what it's about and so I need to do more.

Monday and Weds nights have thus far been a quick weight lift and not much else (unless I go out). Those resources (ie, time) are being diverted to training, with an additional five miles (solo) Monday nights and a recommitment to the track Weds nights. I've been thinking and talking and reading, and I think my race day issues are that I haven't been training to keep up with slightly faster people like I used to, which means on race day, when people pull ahead, I mostly let them go, and once you let them go, psychologically, it's hard to stay as focused on excellence and it becomes more like survival and hanging out. This started during the marathon last year and has continued this year through all but two races. It ends now.

By the 5k in a few weeks I want, no, need to be able to keep up with my teammates. And by the Bronx, I want to be able to say I have a good chance of leading the team. I definitely want to lead the team on marathon day. And I still have the skill to do so, provided I focus up.

I'm cutting back on the drinks - I upped them after Boston as it got warmer and, in truth, I was kind of upset to do so poorly once again - and will also take a monthly cliche mirror pic to see if I can visually see the difference as I recommit. I've already lost some weight, but I can tell I'm still a bit more bloated than I want to be, and I want to go lean as the fall approaches.

If all this works, I'll have my formula forever. If it doesn't, maybe I'm just losing my touch. But I don't think that's true yet. We'll see. 20 mile training run next Sunday.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Race Report: 2017 Team Champs

Time: Ha

How did you feel? Nope!

My legs felt and feel fine. I just couldn't breathe. It was super humid. I want to do better for myself and for the team, but the conditions just weren't there. My training is going fine. I just wish I could be at my fastest again.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Salaries, Nonprofits, and Other Thoughts

I'm not sure how organized these thoughts are. So I'll just number them.

1. I said this on facebook earlier this week, but I truly hate that so many jobs (especially in the nonprofit sector) hide their salary for the longest possible time. People are not stupid. We know if the salary was high (and not whatever BS "competitive" means) it would be posted, or at least revealed early in the process. With my previous job, I wasn't told a salary or even a range until I'd gone through a phone screen, an online application, a second interview, a third interview, and then a "tryout." I suppose they figure the process will squeeze out anyone who isn't truly committed, but it's just as likely people will agree to it out of sheer exhaustion. I realize that my current job is unique in that academia (since I technically work for a school) must share their salaries, but still. I'm hopefully never going to go through such a process again without knowing what I could hope to receive. And nonprofits, stop doing this. You think you're getting more committed talent this way, but you're just going to waste time. If the salary you can offer is low, and you're afraid people won't take the job because of it, either find a way to raise it or just be up front, because no one is going to work on pure love.

2. In America, it's gauche to discuss your salary for... some reason. We're a bizarrely private country career-wise. One of my favorite blogs, Ask A Manager, every so often runs a post that asks for people to share their salary so people can be aware of what to expect. It's still anonymous, though. I'm not saying there aren't downsides to this - people will compare and compete, etc - but people compare and compete anyway. We do a lot of nonsense in this society to try and avoid feelings, but the emotions arise no matter what. I mean, I only know the salary of my wife (because we share finances, obv) and one of my friends, who told me in confidence when I asked. One can guess about those of others, and you are lying to yourself if you say you've never wondered. But the real benefit of such transparency is I think it allows people who are newer to their careers a real chance to understand what growth they can hope for. I know I didn't start saving as well as I could because I assumed, wrongly, that I would never really be at a solid place. I think transparency is beneficial. And I know some folks would feel some sort of way - myself included before this year - but I think the pros outweigh the cons. 

3. Related to the last point, I know when I went to the management training course in which I met my wife, I found out how much more similarly titled people were making at other agencies. My first reaction was dismay and shock, and my wife could tell anyone how childishly I reacted when I found out how paltry my salary was by comparison. But I did, eventually, start to think about what I needed to do to get to higher levels. I was spurred into action.

4. Surely, salary is not the end all and be all of life. Making more doesn't make you a better person, or else Trump would be a good human being. But compensation matters. The word descends from various Latin and Old English phrases meaning, roughly, a weight against a loss or difficulty. If our work is, indeed, work, then it stands to reason we should be compensated justly. The world, of course, is not fair, and neither is the market. But as much as I love and cherish the work many nonprofits do, we need to stop pretending that compensation doesn't matter. Again, if salaries are low, they are low. Just say so. You'll only get a subset of possible applicants, and it's best to come to terms with that.

5. And then there's credentials. Credentials are not, by themselves, experience. They can substitute, but then experience should be able to substitute in return. I say this as someone with plenty of credentials who is considering acquiring more, but if you have been able to do a job, or show you can in interviews with some sort of assessment or practice, then if we're going to have these butt-low salaries, how on earth are we going to require so many degrees at the same time? Do you really think your productivity will suffer if you hire someone personable and smart who doesn't have an MA? And I am not speaking of jobs that require certain licenses (LMSW, etc). I just mean an office job with fairly standard duties. Is it truly impossible to train someone green? Having an advanced degree certainly doesn't make someone office ready (indeed sometimes the opposite). And of course, we value certain schools more highly, and those certain schools have very very pricey advanced degrees. So what we're really doing, by creating this tail-eating system, is telling people that to get in the door at a Certain Type of nonprofit, we need to go 50k into debt and be okay with barely paying it off, because, and this isn't said out loud but it's true, most of who we hire will come from comfortable backgrounds and be able to be supported and certainly won't have dependents. And that's how you get places like "We Got Y'all" from Insecure, or real such places here.

6. This ended up being more about nonprofits in general than salaries, huh? But it's all connected. If you can pay more, do it, and don't get huffy about your cookie-cutter mission. (Side note: come up with more compelling missions.) People can't pay rent on mission. Write their phone bill a check and sign it "100 missions and love and kindness." If you can't pay more, say so, and accept what you'll get, which is probably not the cream of the crop. And especially if you can't pay more, do not fall in love with credentials as the marker of sophistication we assume they are. There are some real morons out there with advanced degrees. And some sterling potential employees without them. But a lot of places will truly never find out because these people don't "fit" what they're looking for (and hoo boy, don't get me started on "fit").

7. I am not a fan of the private sector. It's craven and I don't find much of the work interesting. I'm an educator and I don't believe in for-profit education, so there isn't much space for me in the private sector. But the one thing they have going for them is they don't delude themselves, and many find the directness appealing. I find i-banking gross and almost wholly useless, but, although they give lip service to platitudes about changing things, they don't pretend the salary isn't a big deal. Our society is messed up enough that we force nonprofits to plug all the holes our government agencies can't (or won't, in conservative states). And yeah, you shouldn't go into any such thing to become enormously wealthy, no. But there's a big giant gulf between mansions and the way nonprofit folks are compensated, and then the subterfuge and chicanery that tries to hide it until the last minute. (And of course, if you even ask about salary, you are labelled a Suppressive Person and may be tossed aside.)

As Kanye says, money ain't everything, but not having it is. And we shouldn't be making it so that committed, caring people aren't able to save for the future while, at the same time, trying to help people in need.

8. Fix yourself, nonprofits. I believe in you. We need you. But you gotta do better. Mission isn't everything, and sometimes, if you handle things poorly, it's basically nothing.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Role Playing

We all live many stories in our lives. And often how we feel about ourselves is related to what we think we are. Are we go-getters? Are we ne'er-do-wells? Are we champions of industry, as my dad always wanted me to be (whether or not I wanted to)?

The easiest way to change the story you tell yourself is with concrete facts, evidence of achievement (or lack thereof). It's why I started running, although I didn't understand it at the time: because I wanted proof I could do something well.

I loved my school growing up, as it nurtured my creative side and my ebullience. But we didn't really get grades as such, and so, because humans are human, we found other ways to prove achievement. Eventually, I entered some contests and took APs and SATs and SAT2s and such, and of course everyone talked about their scores.

And then I got to college and people didn't really talk about their grades much - unless forced to take time off - so we sought other ways to achieve. I was mostly a middling student until I got to writing my longer papers my last two years. But even those didn't garner awards or honors, nor should they have (they weren't exceptional).

For really most of my first twenty years, inside of my head, the role I played was that of the "gifted but insignificant boy." It's why I acted out and was a bit of a class clown, and why I didn't work as hard as I should have. I don't think I actually was insignificant (or any more so than others), but it's the role I considered mine. 

And I wasn't comfortable inside of that cocoon. So when I got to new situations - a summer trip to France with an academic program, freshman year of college, and again in Korea - I, not particularly consciously but somewhat, decided I would be "sarcastic, brusque, life of the party guy." I still didn't fully consider myself attractive, mostly because I was short, but also, in retrospect, because I lacked social confidence and thus wasn't very good at speaking to new people without ten layers of sarcasm and jokes.

Eventually, though, since I was still not really comfortable in this persona, I started pushing people away. I started writing long facebook notes with the hope for intellectual connection, though mostly fell flat. I got more engaged in politics. I absolutely didn't really think towards the future career-wise as I mostly had a series of short-term jobs while I was in grad school, though in retrospect the career trajectory looks better than it felt at the time. But this was the time when I built - and I did it consciously - my "urban tribe" and fancied myself a bit of a social leader among the group. But because I had few concrete goals outside of this social stuff, "urban tribe leader and social planner" became the most important thing for me. It was all about the next event we had together. And we had a lot of short-term fun. And I finally did feel desired by peers and partners.

As that started to fizzle, and more important as I started to age, I searched for my new role. And I started racing. And racing gives you concrete goals and achievements that can never be undone unless you're Lance Armstrong. I started realizing what my particular talents were. To wit, I get things done and I'm a strong communicator. Everyone wants to be a leader and I'm not sure I'm there yet, not in my career or really anywhere else. So for now, I am finally comfortable with the role I am playing, with all of the authenicity I can. I'm an "achiever and communicator." I may yet be a true leader in a few years, as it will depend on the next steps. But instead of changing roles because I was uncomfortable or having roles thrust at me by the world around me, ideally all my future roles are ones I will choose from among the options at hand. It's fortunate to understand that I may have these choices going forward. I only hope I can remain this lucky, and that all those I care about can choose the roles that best suit them, too.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality