Multi award winning author, Lloyd Lofthouse kept a daily journal for one-full school year and that journal became the primary source of this teacher’s memoir.
“Readers who envision eager students lapping up learning led by a Tiger Teacher will be disappointed. Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.
Throughout this memoir, though, Lofthouse seems able to keep the hope alive that there’s a future for each student that doesn’t include jail—thanks in large part to his sixth period journalism class and its incredible editor, Amanda.” – Bruce Reeves
Praise for ‘Crazy is Normal’:
“Lloyd has written an honest and fascinating story of a year in the working life of a dedicated California public school teacher. This is a must read for those thinking of becoming a teacher, is a public school teacher or administrator, or has children in the public school system.
What works most effectively is how Lloyd shows the contrast between the two student extremes – the top achievers who take what Lloyd offers and learns how to conquer the world, and the many slackers who appear determine to sabotage their teacher’s best efforts to teach them the skills they need for a successful future.”-Tim M, Amazon Reviewer
“Lots of teachers I know wish they had kept a daily journal as detailed as Lofthouse’s; you forget so much. He’s done old teachers a favor, and will have them nodding their heads — “yes, that’s the way it was.” Parents and teachers who live in lusher locations may turn their nose up at his toughness and military approach to classroom rules, but in the long run it’s the students who profited. Someday maybe someone will keep a similar journal and write a parallel account of life in a “nice” school classroom. A great read that gradually moves the reader from a sense of “crazy” to a sense of “maybe there’s hope.”-Unhirsute, Amazon Reviewer
“Lloyd Lofthouse has written a powerful memoir in Crazy Normal that took me back to time we shared at Nogales High School. His reflections and anecdotes based on his daily journal brought so many memories of my own teaching experiences there. This is not fiction, but retelling of events that might give insight for many into the challenges a teacher faces every day.
Lofthouse’s journal shows a later picture of the community. The kids who populate the pages of his memoir don’t have dirt floors, but many of them are still new to the country and the language. Some are headed to colleges and universities while others, if they graduate from high school, might be the first of their families to achieve that diploma.
I had to take breaks from reading when Lloyd described the grueling and frustrating teachers’ meetings. These were not times I wanted to revisit now that I have retired after thirty-seven years of teaching. But like Lloyd, my good memories are of the students who walked through my doors every day. I revel in their accomplishments and their ability to overcome huge societal obstacles in order to succeed. Nogales is a place like many other American high schools where crazy is normal.
I applaud Lloyd Lofthouse for his dedication and hard work on behalf of kids who needed someone who cared enough to help his students learn and grow. His story is worth telling—and worth the read.”- GailtheReader, Amazon Reviewer
Little did Lloyd Lofthouse know in 1999, when he married Anchee Min, that he was beginning a journey of discovery. His first trip to The Middle Kingdom was on the honeymoon with his bride, who introduced him to China and Robert Hart (1835-1911), the main characters in Lloyd’s first two novels,My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. The next decade was a journey of discovery. Lloyd now lives near San Francisco with his wife–with a second home in Shanghai, China.
Lloyd earned a BA in journalism in 1973 after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. While working days as an English teacher, he enjoyed a second job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub. His short story, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was named as a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.
Lloyd has won 15 awards for My Splendid Concubine and 5 awards for Running With the Enemy.
‘Crazy Is Normal’ will be on sale for only $0.99 from October 1-November 15, 2014 on Kindle!
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The principal rolled his chair across the carpet and shoved his face toward mine until the tip of his nose was less than an inch away. The flickering neon light reflected off his tobacco-stained canine teeth, and he curled his lip in a sneer.
Then he said, “It’s your fault if a student fails your class. You’re not motivating them. You also write too many referrals, because you have no control of your students. If you create a more positive atmosphere in your classroom, the students wouldn’t be getting into trouble, and more of them would be passing.”
My chest and back were slick with sweat when I abruptly awoke Monday morning an hour earlier than planned. I gasped for air and stared at the dull ceiling.
I knew the cause of the nightmare. Sunday, I’d spent five hours putting grades into my computer grading program. When I printed out the results, only six of my one hundred ninth graders were earning As. There were forty-five failing.
When many of the seventh and eighth graders I taught at Alvarado Intermediate earned failing grades, the principal had called me into his office for the grilling that I’d just relived through the nightmare.
Those kinds of nightmares, on top of my PTSD flashbacks from Vietnam, were the reason why I had to sleep with a mouth guard, because without it, I ground me teeth so hard I’d shattered some of them, and how had several porcelain crowns.
I think teaching was more stressful than being in combat, because, in Vietnam, we had long periods of downtime in our heavily guarded camps between patrols, ambushes, recons, and field operations. In teaching, the only downtime from stressful situations was summer break.
In my first twenty years of teaching, I worked under seven principals at two grade schools, two intermediate schools, and the high school and—no matter the pressure—held firm to standards that required students to earn credit for sixty percent of the assigned work to pass the class with at least a D-.
At the time, principals in Rowland Unified School District were often moved from one school to another every few years. A few quit or retired, and some were fired for reasons we seldom learned.
I heard the game of musical chairs for principals was because the district administration didn’t want them bonding with the teachers. The Soviet Union did the same thing with its army officers. The idea was to keep an officer’s loyalty to the Kremlin and never to the troops commanded.
The first progress report for the first quarter at Nogales was due in three weeks, and I wanted my students to know what their grades were so they had time to improve. Today, I planned to hand each student a printed, individualized progress report that showed every point earned for every assignment.
In first period, I passed out the progress reports as soon as I finished taking roll. “I want you to take this progress report home, show it to your parents or guardians, and have one of them sign it. Bring it back tomorrow, and I want to make this clear: Over the next three weeks, there will be enough work and enough time for everyone who didn’t have an A today to improve his or her grade.
The lesson I was starting today was to teach my students how to do the book report I’d developed fifteen years earlier when teaching seventh and eighth grade English at Giano Intermediate, and I knew it got results.
The book report had six sections. Section one explained in one paragraph the reason the student selected the book, section two was a detailed plot outline, section three was an in-depth character study of one character in the novel, section four identified a major theme with examples, and section five was a detailed description of several major conflicts. Section six was a recommendation—a review of the book—because I demanded that my students only read books they found entertaining.
Why waste a month reading a book they didn’t enjoy? If the book turned out boring, get another one. All of the skills the kids learned from doing the book report were listed in the state curriculum guide for English as something they were expected to know before they graduated from high school.
I’d already told these ninth graders many times to be careful when picking a book and to make sure it was one they wanted to read and not just grabbed off the shelf without thought. Today’s lesson was how to write a plot outline. Each day that week, I planned to focus on one or more of the sections of the book report.
And there was resistance. “This is too hard,” one student complained. “You’re crazy,” another said. “You’re mean,” a third added. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, when I had assigned the same report to seventh and eighth graders at Giano Intermediate, no one complained. The only change I was aware of was the still-growing parenting movement to boost a false sense of self-esteem in children.
Only a few Scrollies appeared at lunch. The stories for the October issue hadn’t been assigned yet, and the printer and three computers were out for repair. We didn’t have a new printer yet.
In sixth, Amanda had her staff sit while she stood in front of the class and critiqued the September issue of Scroll, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses. Last year, the editors had always started each month by bragging about how great the paper looked and how wonderful they all were. There was little or no constructive criticism that year except from me, and, for that, the seniors had treated me like I was an Orc out of The Lord of the Rings.
When Amanda finished her in-depth critique, she turned to me. “Mr. Lofthouse, do you have anything you want to add?”
“No, I think you covered everything, and a few things I didn’t notice. Good job.”
I love reading about personal experiences of people. Lives that are different than mine give me an insight into what it would be like to have been in their shoes or taken a different route in my own life. With my sister just starting out teaching little ones this school year, I was ready to go on the journey that Lloyd Lofthouse was about to take me on. One year of his teaching experience in an inner city school in California was documented by him in a journal. He has now made that journal into this tell all book, and I am thankful and commend him for it.
During this memoir we learn all of his teaching methods and what his class was like. I loved that he shared with the reader his students on both sides of the classroom, the ones that did well and the ones that needed a little bit more of his help and time. As a teacher he really felt that each and every child had the ability to succeed and make something great of themselves. The neighborhood that they came from should not affect this outcome. With all the bad that was going on in the area, Lofthouse made it his mission to better the kids that he taught and give them a bright future. He was dedicated to his cause and there need to be more teachers like him around. I appreciate his willingness to share and to let is in. The author has other books out there that I will now be looking into. Loved it! FIVE stars.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my open and honest review. All thoughts are my own.
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Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Oct. 1 Review & Giveaway
Inspire to Read Oct. 2 Guest Post & Excerpt
The Wormhole Oct 3 Guest Post
Cassandra M’s Place Oct. 6 Review & Giveaway
Pinky’s Favorite Reads Oct 6 Interview & Excerpt
Dr Bill’s Book Bazaar Oct. 8 Review
Being Tillys Mummy Oct 9 Guest Post
Being Tillys Mummy Oct 9 Excerpt
Unselfish Oct 13 Review
Back Porchervations Oct 14 Review & Excerpt
Sincerely Stacie Oct. 15 Review
Heck Of A Bunch Oct. 17 Review & Giveaway
Books, Books & More Books Oct 21 Review
Rockin’ Book Reviews Oct 22 Review, Interview, and Excerpt
The Book Binder’s Daughter Oct. 23 Review & Interview
The News in Books Oct. 29 Review
The News in Books Oct. 29 Guest Post
M. Denise Costello Oct. 30 Review & Excerpt
DWD’s Reviews Oct 31 Review
She Treads Softly Nov. 3 Review
CelticLady’s Reviews Nov 4 Review
Manic Mama of 3 Nov. 6 Review & Excerpt (Postponed)
Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 7 Review, Interview & Excerpt
What U Talking Bout Willis? Nov 10 Review & Excerpt
From Isi Nov 11 Review
Reading To Distraction Nov 12
Booknerd Nov 14
Feminist Reflections Nov 18
My Devotional Thoughts Nov. 19 Review & Excerpt