Three Clover Press; 6/13/14
eBook, 386 pages
"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 journal, 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
Crazy is Normal: a classroom exposé by Lloyd Lofthouse is a highly recommended memoir from an experienced teacher recounting in detail the year 1994-95.
After 30 years of teaching Lloyd Lofthouse decided to write a brutally honest, detailed memoir of his year of classroom teaching in 1994. At that time Lofthouse had already had 20 years of experience teaching English and Journalism. He recorded in a journal his experiences from the year 1994 while teaching at the Nogales High School in La Puente, California (L.A. suburb) and brought the year to life in rich detail in Crazy is Normal. Nogales High School is in a poverty stricken urban barrio ruled mainly by gangs. Drop outs and drive-by shootings are both common. He taught a variety of English classes, but his star class was the journalism class which had motivated students and an outstanding editor, Amanda.
The narrative is set up following his year of teaching, week by week, for the entire year. Lofthouse has also included excerpts from studies and articles concerning teaching. There is a youtube video interview with Lofthouse that will show you the passion and concern he has for students. He also explains why an exposé detailing a year of teaching from 1994-95 is still pertinent today: the students and the parents haven't changed. He goes on to make several very passionate points about the state of education today. Since I work in an elementary school I clearly see the need to have students coming in to school with the desire to learn to read - after being read to by parents. But, as most of us know, that is not always the case and impoverished parents mean impoverished children.
While the memoir is certainly worth reading, I'd have to agree with others that a strength and weakness is the way it is presented in weekly segments. At times the daily repetition can be tedious, much as a school year can be, with the same problems with the same students, but it also clearly shows the commitment a teacher must have toward a profession to continue teaching and facing many of the same struggles year after year. The year ends because it's done, not with any great climatic moment. Lofthouse does clearly and successfully capture his frustration, but also his commitment. I enjoyed this memoir and found myself sympathizing with Lofthouse for most of it.
I will admit I was a bit put off and perhaps it was too honest when he admitted he was attracted to one of his students (no action on his part.) I can't quite envision that, although I do know students get crushes on teachers. Currently, I'm in the position where I'm in an elementary school by day and some evenings I work with a group of high school and college kids. I find them funny, lively, cute, sometimes foul-mouthed and annoying, and any number of other things, but never feel any attraction for them. They all are like my "kids." Several years ago when I was the adult supervisor for publishing a newsletter and yearbook with a group of teens I felt the same way. Perhaps it's a male/female thing, but I just can't quite swallow that one. It is just a small part of the whole narrative, however, and doesn't overshadow the totality of the memoir.
Crazy is Normal will be on sale for $0.99 from October 1-November 15, 2014, for your Kindle!
You Tube Video - interview
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the author for review purposes..
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