This is a memoir of a secondary school English teacher about one of his school years, two decades ago. I’m reviewing it for Virtual Authors Book Tour.
I studied a Masters in Education to be a secondary school Science teacher but I have never had the chance to work (well, I’m tutoring a girl at the moment, but it’s hardly the same), so I enjoy reading anything about teaching, including some of the FB posts some of my friends write about their good and bad days at their schools! That’s why I said yes to this book.
Crazy is normal is a detailed journal of an academic course, week by week. Lloyd Lofthouse taught English and Journalism and was known for being one of the tough teachers. He worked in a public school and in this book he explains what he did in every class, the assignments the students had to do, the books they were supposed to read in class, the daily work of the school newspaper at Journalism classes, the way he evaluated the students’ work and the problems he had with certain students on a regular basis.
That is exactly the pro and the con of this book: it tells you EVERYTHING regarding school, and it becomes monotonous when he was to remind the rules to the students almost every day; frustrating when he has to send the same students out of the class for bad behavior and doesn’t get anything by phoning their parents, and also exhausting when he arrives at home after more than 10 hours of work only to correct and mark assignments until bedtime. So it’s absolutely different from other memoirs you can read because I think it hasn’t been written to entertain the reader (in fact, I can say most will find it boring), but this routine is the hard truth for a number of teachers day after day, isn’t it? That’s why I liked it. I think Crazy is normal can help me to face the class and the job if the time comes.
I couldn’t help but compare every detail throughout the book to the Spanish education system, or at least to the part that I know. I wasn’t surprised that most of the issues teachers must face remain constant everywhere: bureaucrats who have never been in a classroom are the people who tell you how to do your job, or those parents who are utterly worried about their children’s self steem and ask you to give them better grades instead of making sure the kids work harder the next time.
Nevertheless, I have found interesting differences between the educational system in America and Spain. First thing that caught my attention was that in Lofthouse’s school the teacher is assigned one classroom and the students change rooms in every period, which is absolutely fantastic because, as a teacher, you can have your class distributed as you want with all the tools you might need at hand, instead of running from one classroom to another taking with you your laptop, briefcase, etc. like Spanish teachers do. They also have “after school detentions”, which, in my opinion, would solve most of the teaching problems, but actually doesn’t work as well as I expected.
The book addresses other interesting issues, some of which shocked me, like almost everything related to Journalism classes – the responsibility students have for all the paper process and how they solve all the incidentals by their own. Or the teacher feeling attracted to a brilliant student, which leads to an embarrasing situation (only for him, though) when they are alone in the classroom he solves in a forthright way. There is also the girl who is transferred to another group because she is being bullied for being the only white in the class, or the shootings happening in the neighbourhood where the school is located.
As you can see, I could be talking about this book forever because I have found it fascinating. I have learned a lot and I have borrowed several ideas from Mr. Lofthouse’s classes which can’t be learned at university. However, this is not a book for everybody: you have to be truly interested in the matter because he only talks about teaching and, therefore, the lack of information about the author’s personal life might bore the reader to death.
Finally, I would like to tell you that I happened to watch the film Precious, which I think matches perfectly well with this book, and it also gives you hope, perhaps not in the system, but in teachers and students.
Crazy is normal
Publisher: Three Clover Press (June 14, 2014)
Crazy is normal has won an honorable mention at the ‘Southern California Book Festival.
The book will be on sale for $0,99 until November 15 on Amazon.
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