The Truth About Teaching: Teachers Are More Than Teachers

Most people think the job of teachers is to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generation.  And this is, in the strictest sense, the definition of teaching (and from the entry on Wikipedia).  But in reality, teachers aren’t just teachers.

Teachers are politicians.  We work in all branches of the government.  We create laws for our classrooms – the rules.  Some teachers rule like dictators and others run democracies, but there cannot be anarchy.  We must keep our country safe.

Teachers are police.  The laws we create we must enforce as unbendingly as a policeman (or more commonly, policewoman).  Each class has its own rules and students must follow them like citizens abiding the laws of a nation.  We cannot let students be harmed by other students, and in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, we are more vigilant than ever when unfamiliar adults lurk through the building.

Teachers are psychologists.  Students come to school with so many psychological and behavioral issues that it’s no wonder one of the core classes in any Masters of Teaching program is Behavioral Psych.  Students with issues at home come to their teachers when there is no one else to talk to about their problems.  Just as we must protect students from harming each other physically (as police), we must also protect them from damaging each other emotionally.

Teachers are performers.  Every moment you are in front of your students, you are on stage.  Everyone has a work persona, but with teachers, it’s twofold, because kids watch your every facial expression, action, and reaction.  Teachers should not lose their temper at a child – but they may act angry from time to time.  We need to know when to utilize enthusiasm to motivate and when to keep a straight face.  Teachers have a live audience every day and receive instant reviews.

Teachers are writers.  Lesson plans are mapped out like outlines for stories, essays, or screenplays, with a solid structure and a clear message (a lesson plan’s aim/objective).  Many of us write worksheets, and the best of us prepare high-order thinking questions, guiding students from easy to more complex material like a character moving toward the climax.

Ultimately, teachers are teachers.  We hold education in the utmost esteem.  But we play many other essential roles as well.  Oh, did I mention stand-up comedian?   That one’s optional.


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The Truth About Teaching: An Educator’s Reward

When I tell people I’m a teacher, more often than not, I get the same basic response: “I admire teachers.  I could never do what you do.  But how nice it is that you get vacations and summers off.”

The tone in which this is said is slightly condescending.  As if my job is rewarded with summer days reading in the park and springs breaks in Puhket.

It’s time to decode the myths about teaching.

I work at a charter school in the Bronx.  Our last day of school is July 17th.  We start up again in mid-August.  Still a month off, right?  Well, I work from 7 – 4 (awake at 5:30), a nine-hour workday.  Add up those hours and there goes my “summers off”.  And then there’s the work we do outside the classroom: lesson planning, grading, and following up with parents.

Sure, I work at a charter school, which has longer hours than most educational institutions.  Yet teachers in public and private schools are just as underpaid.  Few people can live comfortably on a teacher’s salary.  So what do they do?  They teach summer school.  They tutor.  This is how they spend their vacations and summers.

The misconception is more than a skewed notion of time off from work.  Teachers don’t teach for money or for summers off.  If money is the goal, there are far better jobs for that.  Some are artists, writers, and musicians, trying to find a sustainable way to pursue their art while spreading their passion.  Those teachers who teach for life are dedicated individuals, unyielding and relentless when it comes to their commitment to education.

The true educator’s reward comes from his or her students.  From passing on knowledge for students to absorb and carry with them for the rest of their lives.  It’s a tremendous responsibility, an inconceivable obligation.  Our reward is the spark in a child’s eye when he learns something new.



Jonah Kruvant blogs about his teaching experiences at a school in the Bronx, along with other New York musings.



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voices screaming,

the city becomes gray.

And then it pours,

rain blown by the breeze,

sheets and sheets of it,

trees dancing with glee,

skyscrapers out of sight,

pellets stick to windows,

splashing feet, running for protection.

A child remains

with outstretched arms and a smile,

wanting to play.

As sudden as it started,

it stops.

The height

of the city returns

to sight,

though the gloomy cloud remains overhead,

ready to release.

And so, the city is

a new city.

Never the same again.

With fear always looming

from the sky.

No one knows how long

the storm will ensue,

the lightning will last

but the people will endure.

They always do.

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To Those in Their Twenties

With spring comes new beginnings.  Trees blossom, smiles suddenly appear on solemn faces.  People emerge like bears after hibernation.  They appear on bicycles and skateboards, in running shorts and sneakers, with frisbees and basketballs.  Or, if they are a writer, or at least pretend to be, they leave their familiar desk, sit under the sun with a pad and pen, and write.

On a sunny morning in Prospect Park, I sat on a bench and engaged in a speedwriting technique where you don’t lift your pen from the page for as long as you can.  This is a way of brainstorming for ideas, bridging the conscious and subconscious mind in order to unlock writer’s block.  When I stopped writing this time, I looked down at the last sentence I wrote, and was stunned.  I was so entranced that I literally froze, unable to put the pen back to the page.  Here’s what I wrote:

I could do anything.  I really could.

This is a thought that plagues people in their 20s.  Yes, I mean plagues.  The choices we have to make in this time in our lives are very real.  Where to live, what career to pursue, who to marry.  These are our biggest life decisions.  We have so many choices in our twenties that it can feel utterly overwhelming.  As the character Marnie in the HBO hit sitcom, “Girls”, puts it, “Sometimes I wish someone would just tell me what I should be doing.  It would make things so much easier.”  Limitless possibilities makes it hard to choose.  It can even make us feel confused and lost.

Hey, wait a second.  America is the land of opportunity and freedom of choice.  We celebrate these ideals.  Our parents worked so we could have every opportunity in the world.  Yet here we are, feeling as if we were blind, living in a world of darkness, reaching out for something – for anything – to hold on to.

In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath describes the phenomenon with a metaphor of a fig tree:

“I saw my life branching out before me like a green fig tree.  From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.  One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor.  I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tee, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.”

In The Defining Decade: Why Your 20s matter – and How to Make the Most of Them Now, Meg Jay describes it from a psychological standpoint: you change more in your 20s than in any other period of your life.

Yes, we change more in our 20s than when we’re infants.  And more than puberty.  How is this possible?

According to Jay, the rear part of the brain, that of pleasure seeking, is developed in our teenage years.  The frontal lobe, however, does not develop until our 20s…and is the part of our brain that gives us reason.

Giving it some thought, Jay’s idea made sense to me.  I can point to many an experience during college where I observed pleasure seeking overriding reason.

If you are in your 20s, perhaps you find solace in Lena Dunham’s words, or can relate to Plath’s metaphor, or take comfort in Jay’s explanation.  If not, I offer this:

Seize the day.

This quote has different meanings to everyone.  For some, it means it’s time to hop on the treadmill again, or get back into doing sets of squats, or perfecting your down dog.  Others become determined to endure the bitterness of kale at least one meal a day.

For the uncertain twenty-year-old, treat your twenties like the coming of spring.  If you don’t know what career to choose, go from job to job and leave your mark, like a bee flies from flower to flower and pollenates.  Look forward to defining your life with the same excitement you have for warm spring days.  Or go to the park, sit under the sun, put your pen to the page, and write.

And don’t despair: your frontal lobe is still developing.

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I Survived the Amazon Part One: Beyond the Imagination

The Amazon Rainforest is the most ecologically diverse place on the planet.  More animals, plants, and insects live there than anywhere else in the world.  It is the largest rainforest and the greatest source of oxygen and freshwater.  Nowhere is the origin of life more perceivable than the Amazon.

So when my friend, Dave, booked a tour there the same week I had off from work, I jumped on the opportunity.  I got my yellow fever shot (leaving my arm sore for weeks), my malaria pills (making me dizzy at the airport), stocked up on sunblock and bug spray, stuffed clothes, a notepad, a few pens, and Don Quixote into my backpack, went straight from work to JFK, and then there I was, sweating in a hostel in Manaus, Brazil, the gateway to the Amazon.

The Amazon has jaguars, snakes, poisonous frogs, howling monkeys, and piranhas.  Then there are the insects – malaria carrying mosquitoes, spiders, and poisonous ants.  Not to mention the poisonous plants of which there are so many that it would be impossible for me to recognize them all if I could.

I stayed at a cabina, or cabin lodge, in a room with ants and spiders.  I was lucky – another guest spotted a tarantula in his sink.  I spent the afternoon piranha fishing.  The tour guide showed us his catch, opening the mouth to expose razor sharp teeth.  But piranhas weren’t the only dangerous creatures lurking in the water.

That night, we returned to the swamp to find caiman, the alligators of the Amazon.  Fabio, our tour guide, paddled ahead, using his flashlight to search the murky waters.  The only sound we could hear was the paddle slowly pushing against the water and the croaking of poisonous frogs and crickets in the distance.

Fabio fearlessly searched the swamp until he found a caiman.  He shone his flashlight on the creature.  There they were, like two red fireflies, the eyes of a caiman.

And then Fabio did something I never could have expected.  He got out of the boat.  As slow as a sloth, he waded through the dark water, approaching the caiman.  He reached his hand into the water!  And then he pulled out a baby caiman.


Caiman in hand, Fabio came back to the boat.  My mouths agape, I listened to him describe the history of Amazon caimans as he held it in front of me and the other tourists.  I was sitting in the front of the canoe and the creature was mere inches from my eyes.

“Would you hold it for a second?” Fabio asked me casually.

I reached out my hand.

“Hold it by the neck first, so it won’t bite.  Then put your other hand around its tail.”

I wrapped my fingers around its neck and then held it tightly with two hands.  Its skin was slimy and its yellow eyes stared into mine.

The fact that Fabio actually went into the water, filled with caimans, big and small, was unperceivable to me.  For him to take this wild, dangerous creature with his own hands (whoknew where its mother was lurking!), to wade through piranha-infested waters, was something I never could have imagined.  It went beyond my imagination.

Yet to Fabio, it was no big deal.  Not only was it his job, but he faced dangers every day, and he did it with a soft laugh and a gentle smile.  I guess what amazed me so much was that there are always things that we cannot imagine happening, and then one day, they do.



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The Hurricane Part Two

Here is Part Two of “The Hurricane”.  For Part One, scroll down to view previous posts.  It is a short fiction piece about Hurricane Sandy.

David Lichtenberg’s family was without power for a week.  His father and mother slept in their cold, dark Connecticut home, dressed in layers of midnight black long underwear, and under two blankets and one thick down comforter.  His dog, a golden retriever with a penchant for potato chips, and his cat, who would only drink water out of plotted plants, slept under the kitchen table, without even the familiar hum of the refrigerator to accompany their tumultuous dreams.

David never lost power.  The night after Hurricane Sandy, he watched a movie and passed out on the couch with Morgan Freeman’s voice in his ears and half-eaten kernels squashed haphazardly in his lap.

He had done it.  Sure, he had missed the job interview for the entry-level position at the Upper East Side law firm, but he didn’t care – he entered the storm during its peak and survived.  He no longer needed the comforts and pleasures his family had always provided him; he no longer had to listen to his parents’ unrealistically high expectations at the dinner table or their insistence to work in the family firm; he left behind all that and had faced Sandy like a man.

The storm warnings stayed in effect until the end of the week – four days after David viewed “March of the Penguins” for the very first time.  David finished the movie the next morning (along with a few of the remaining kernels), glued to the screen as the male and female penguins journeyed perilously to hatch their chicks, find food, and bring it safely back home.  He turned on the TV and listened to the warnings from Mayor Bloomberg, “It is dangerous to go outside and full warnings are still in effect.  Sandy has been classified as a ‘superstorm’.  Please, for your own safety, stay indoors.”

Once again, David Lichtenberg did no such thing.  He left his brightly lit apartment and walked through Park Slope, where few roamed the streets, but the sun glistened on window panes of brownstone homes, families cooked their most comforting meals, watched their favorite TV shows, and surfed the Internet as they pleased.  With children home from school, parents spent quality time with their families, and seemed utterly oblivious to the devastation in Red Hook, only four miles away.  David was certain that his own family knew nothing of true devastation.  Sure, they had lost power, but they weren’t flooded, and even if they were, they had enough money to rebuild their homes.  So many in Red Hook had nothing at all.

David wanted to see what Sandy had done with his own glassy blue eyes.  While few Brooklynites had left their homes, let alone their borough, David, with the rain jacket with the hood that refused to stay on his head, walked straight to the Brooklyn Bridge, determined to venture through lower Manhattan.

The storm had passed and the violent gales from before had transformed into calming zephyrs that accompanied David through the Brooklyn streets.  He snapped a photo with his phone here and there – a plastic bag wrapped around a car tire, scattered branches of a tree laying on Nevins Street, a lone pigeon.  As he approached the bridge, he saw three shocked faces looking past him.  He turned, and there, along Pineapple Street, was an Audi tt with its windshield shattered and the trunk of a tree sticking out of it like a thumb.

He kept receiving text messages from his mother.  “Not much battery left but just checking in…”  “We are all OK here and miss you.”  “Thanks for the text yday, pls stay in touch.”  Couldn’t she understand that he had to be his own man?  That he was his own individual and didn’t need his parents anymore?  Like the penguins, his parents would do anything for him, but only if he lived a life that they approved of.  Besides, there is a time when every chick become a fully grown bird, and its parents fly away.

David closed his phone and let it vibrate in his pocket as he came to the bridge.   People walked toward and then past him, computers and cellphone chargers in their backpacks, embarking on a journey to find an electrical outlet and wireless Internet.  Others came to Brooklyn for a freshly cooked meal at Tom’s Restaurant or Franny’s Pizzeria, or to simply sit at a coffee shop with a mug of hot tea.  Only those without a place to stay would return to Manhattan, trekking back across the bridge to their apartments that never seemed so dark or so cold.

David walked among them.  He walked past City Hall, then past Canal Street, and through the streets of Soho.  The chaos of New York usually bothered David.  The throngs of people rushing past him with their false sense of urgency.  Wherever they were going, it wasn’t necessary to sprint to catch the subway or the bus – there would always be another one.  David hated Soho most of all, with its hordes of shoppers.  Whenever he was in the neighborhood, he always avoided Broadway, which made him feel agoraphobic.

On that day, there wasn’t a soul on the streets of Soho.

Houston Street was void of honking horns and working traffic lights; the restaurants of Bleecker Street were empty.  Two bikers munched on falafel outside of Mamoun’s and people sat by candlelight with lagers and ales at Blind Tiger.  “We have batteries” read a sign on an open deli on West 4th Street.

All these sights did not affect David as much as the sounds.  Never before had he realized the comfort he had from the whirring of taxis, flying through Manhattan to their intended destinations like bees buzzing through a garden from flower to flower, the hums of heaters, the laughter or crying of a child, the desperate wailing and wild shouts of the homeless, the strumming of a guitar from a street musician, the languages, the grumbles, the jokes, the threats, the thunder of the subway below, and the whispering of rats.

It was the eerie silence that hit David like nothing before.  As he stood on the corner of Bleecker and Macdougal, where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez played for the first time, the white sky was turning grayer, and David forgot about his job interviews, his quest for adventure, his yearning for independence, his inability to write – for things were so much greater than him.

Before the sun set, prior to the cold creeping its way through the walls of lower Manhattan apartments, David returned to Brooklyn.  He packed up his bag with a weeks worth of clothes and Tom’s Natural, his favorite brand of toothpaste.  He locked the door of his new apartment with one key and turned on his car with another.  David was going home.


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A Health Care System that Works

“The only thing that sells these days is yoga and yogurt.”  This is the newest saying in the real estate world.  While businesses struggle to stay afloat, yoga’s popularity has grown greater than ever.  In 2011, 20 million Americans practiced yoga, five times the number of people in 2001.

Why yoga?  The majority of people who do yoga go for stress reduction.  With the strain of the economy, stress levels are high: according to the American Psychology Association (APA), 75% of Americans report money as the most significant source of stress in their lives.  And 94% of Americans believe that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses.  Is yoga a legitimate way to reduce stress…could it help treat diseases?  Could yoga be a viable alternative to modern medicine?

These questions led me to a yoga retreat  for the first time.  It was there, at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in the rolling hills of the Berkshires in western Massachusettes, that I met Gary Kraftow, who had answers to these questions.  Gary established the American Viniyoga Institute, which provides the only Masers program in the country for teachers of yoga therapy, using yoga to treat physical and mental illnesses, such as COPD, fibromyalgia, traumatic brain injury, and depression.

Gary is a bit of a guru in the yoga world, or in today’s yogic terms, a “yoga rockstar”.  Yet he is in no way a typical yogi, with that easy smile and open nature.  In the yoga therapy course I took with him, Gary commanded his students to get into postures with a no-nonsense authority; he even cursed.  But Gary was brilliant.  He knew all a man could know on the topics of anatomy, psychology, physiology, and, of course, yoga.


Gary taught us breathing techniques, deemphasizing posture and flow.  He described the respiratory system as the only system in our body that we can consciously control.  Through breath, we can intervene and shift the Autonomic Nervous System, which triggers the Fight-Flight reaction that is central to mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.  Breath is the link between our conscious mind and the inner workings of our body.  By breathing, we can gain control over our mind and emotions.

J. Brown takes these ideas to another level.  A student of Mark Whitten, J. Brown, who owns a yoga studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, taught the second yoga course I took at Kripalu.  He believes that breath-centered yoga can be used for allpeople to deal with the stresses of modern life.  Contrary to the roughness of Gary Kraftow, “Jay”, as he asked us to call him, approached each student individually, asked us about our lives, and then opened up about his own life, describing how he changed from a power yoga instructor to a more personal, therapeutic yoga teacher.  He described how yoga, dating back to as early as 3000 BC, was originally centered on meditation; western society changed it into a form of exercise.  He also stresses an individualized practice where people do yoga at home and cultivate mindfulness.  Advanced yoga, according to Jay, isn’t doing head and shoulder stands, it’s having the mental strength to choose not to do a pose if it doesn’t feel right.


The advancements made in western medicine have saved lives and are truly remarkable.  Gary Kraftow made it clear that yoga therapists serve as adjunct therapists to other practitioners.  But do we rely too much on medicine and doctors rather than trying to fix ourselves?  J. Brown read us an email from a student of his with lupus and crones disease, saying how she visited hospitals for years before finding something that worked for her: yoga.  In our pill popping society where a doctor’s word is never questioned, have we neglected to take our health into our own hands?

So next time you’re feeling stressed out about work, get into down dog.  If you’re feeling blue that the economy will never recover, pull out a mat and do some half spinal twists, or maybe you’re in the mood for frog.  Your mind racing at all the things you have to do?  Kick it in child’s pose for a while.  Feeling back pain?  Hold off on the Excedrin and do some cat-cow.  

Yoga: now there’s a health care system we can all follow.

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The Hurricane

a short story

Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm New Yorkers had ever seen.  Mandatory evacuation was issued in Lower Manhattan, Red Hook, Jamaica Bay, Queens, and parts of Long Island.  Schools were closed, subways shut down.   In a public announcement, Mayor Bloomberg advised the citizens of New York to “read a good book, watch a movie, talk with your family – do anything as long as you stay indoors.” 

David Lichtenberg did no such thing.

David moved to Brooklyn eight days before the hurricane hit New York.  David owned a bed, a chair, and had bought a few candles in case the power went out.  That was all he owned, besides a stack of green pens, a lined notebook, and the Globe Illustrated Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  He came to Brooklyn to be a writer.

David had been living in Connecticut at his childhood home.  He lived and worked with his parents at the age of twenty-five and was going insane.  His father started a successful law firm and David worked for him as dutifully as a son could, receiving a decent paycheck, and hating every minute of it.  David’s friends envied the opportunity he had to take over the firm but David wanted none of it.  So he stopped working with his father, insisted on financial independence, and was confident he’d find a good job in New York.  The only problem was that it was the time of the Great Recession, and so six months later, he had no job, and was dipping into his Bar Mitzvah funds to pay for an apartment where the heat didn’t work.

Since moving to Brooklyn, David hadn’t written a single word.

David’s mother insisted that he stay with his family during the hurricane. Why didn’t I?  David thought, gazing out his window at a tree’s branches swinging wildly, its leaves blowing in the breeze, its trunk alone standing firm.  At least I wouldn’t be alone.  He had no girlfriend, not even a roommate.  He knew no one in Brooklyn – no one, really.  Yet he had jumped on this seventh floor walkup in South Slope immediately, even handed over the security deposit, first and last month’s rent upfront.

Regardless of the hurricane, David had a job interview later that afternoon on Skype.  It was for an entry-level position at an Upper East Side law firm, which he took in a moment of exasperation, even though he didn’t want the job.  But what David was more concerned about was that it was already 3:00, just before the storm was to hit its stride, and he didn’t have any aluminum foil.  He would need it to cook his spaghetti in the oven; he didn’t have a microwave, and besides, this was the way he liked it.  So he put on the rain jacket with its hood that wouldn’t stay on his head, and stepped outside.  As soon as he did, he knew where he was going.

With trees that could topple to the ground with the whim of the wind (it was reported later that the first fatality of the storm was a man whose house was crushed by a tree), anyone who journeyed to Prospect Park was asking for trouble.  And so, David went.

Shielding his eyes from debris, David took videos of the storm with his iPhone: the American flag flapping in the rain, empty swings rocking back and forth, leaves in the air engaged in a circular dance.  The wind whipped against his cheeks.  And for the first time all day, David felt great!  Sure, he was alone, but he was on an adventure.  While his family sat in front of the television with blankets and popcorn, here he was, outside in the middle of the hurricane, on the streets of Brooklyn.

A twig suddenly snapped and flew into David’s eye.  He tried to wink it out as he reached the entrance of the park.  Great.  What’s next – a tree on my head?  He walked inside.  There were people there: two guys throwing around a football, and a woman documenting the scene with a digital camera.  This made David feel more secure until he remembered that it meant nothing at all.  New York is filled with crazies.  He laughed aloud as he plodded through a stack of leaves that blocked the path to the Long Meadow.  Is that what I’ve become?  Crazy?  I could just imagine what my father would say: “We told David to come home during the storm but he wouldn’t listen.  Then he not only goes outside, but he goes straight to a park.  Next, I receive a call from the NYPD that my only son was struck by lightning!  And, of course, as a result of all this, he misses a job interview!”

David let the exhilaration of wind blow back his hood and the rain hit his face.  Through squinted eyes, he took in the view of the meadow.  Somehow, despite the whirring of the gale in his ears, and the luminous gray clouds moving overhead, David felt relaxed…though he wasn’t sure why.  He found a bench and just sat, looking out at the meadow as his jeans got damper and the sky became grayer.

After a few minutes, David left the park, his thoughts as foggy as the clouds.  Why did I move to Brooklyn?  Why did I make things more difficult for myself?  Why did I insist on facing the hurricane alone, without the company of my family?  And what could I possibly write about all this?

Just as these questions entered David’s head, the tempest grew angry.  Leaves from a nearby tree spun toward him, a plastic bag wrapped itself around his feet, and the gale blasted into him, lifting his body into the air.

David turned his back to the wind.  He pulled the hood over his face and planted his feet firmly on the ground.  The storm took its course as he stood, completely still, the gale blowing past him.  It was then that he realized why he was in Brooklyn.

David kicked off his sneakers as he entered his apartment.  He tossed his dripping rain jacket on the floor and sat in the chair.  He picked up a green pen, placed the lined notebook on his lap, and wrote.


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New York Musings: Going Against the Grid

My previous blog was about my journey through the jungles of Costa Rica.  Now I’d like to write about a different jungle: the streets of New York.

Awaiting the return of the subways during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy?  Well here’s something to keep in mind when they’re back:

Run the subway stairs.

It’s part of many a New Yorker’s routine: not just commuting by subway, but enduring the poorly marked, multi-leveled, blisteringly hot subway stations.  Well, I say think outside the grid and embrace your surroundings.  Embrace the filth, the sweat forming on your brow, even the rats (many of whom have drowned in the floods), and especiallythe stairs.

There are the escalators, where you either have to nudge by people on the left who block your path, or stand on the right and wait.

Drop this routine in favor of the stairs.  Here’s why:

1) Exercise: Missed a day at the gym?  Build it into your commute.  Running up steps is some of the best exercise regimens you can do.  Running on flat surfaces does not build leg muscle – running up stairs strengthens your heart and your legs.

2) Saves time: Especially for those stations with multiple levels, running up subway stairs saves good chunks of time.

3) Have some space: Stairwells are virtually empty, especially on the way up.  Take advantage of this phenomenon, tap into your youthful instincts, and run.

4) Saves stress & annoyance: Instead of being hassled by your commute, make the most of it.  Use your time efficiently while getting exercise on a daily basis.

There are several methods to ascending a staircase.  Jump as far as you can, take a light jog, lift your knees into the air (the best workout), or just run.  Any way you do it, you will feel free.

Be a winner.  Run the stairs.

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