'Crazy Is Normal' has won an honorable mention at the 'Southern California Book Festival'!
What was the one event or experience you had that stood out the most during your writing journey.
My writing journey stated in 1968, after I attended a Ray Bradbury author event held at the community college I was attending on the G.I. Bill. The next semester, thanks to Bradbury’s inspiration, I signed up for a creative writing class where I wrote my first novel. For the next 26 years—before I started the daily journal for the 1994-95 school year that would turn out to be the primary source for my memoir, “Crazy is Normal: a classroom exposé”, I earned a BA in journalism in 1973 and then went on to earn an MFA in writing starting in 1981.
Over thirty years as a teacher, I worked with more than 6,000 students and what happened every day in class blurred with time and then started to fade after I left the classroom for good in 2005. Working with that daily journal as I wrote “Crazy is Normal” brought back vivid images of the challenges and rewards of teaching. I’m glad I preserved those memoires with that daily journal.
First, one dramatic scene where I thought I might be attacked by a student.
One of the boys, who had a shaved head, said, “You’re the teacher who dropped me from your summer school class.” His tone was belligerent, challenging.
I sized him up. He was at least six feet tall and probably weighed about the same as me, one hundred eighty pounds. I didn’t recognize him, but I knew the one girl in the group. She’d also been in one of my two summer school classes.
“I’m sorry, but you don’t look familiar,” I said. “You say you were dropped from the class. Do you know the reason?” …
“You tell me,” baldy said.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “A lot has happened since last July. I don’t remember you. My summer school classes started out with more than forty or fifty students in each class, and by the end of summer school, there were fewer than twenty left.”
“You are stupid,” he said. “You’re nothing but a stupid dick head.”
For a peek at the more rewarding side of teaching, I’ve selected several other, brief scenes from the memoir that all focus on one student, because those scenes triggered fond memories as I wrote them. Megan—not her real name—was one of the most interesting and colorful students I’d worked with in my career as a public school teacher. Megan appears throughout the memoir, but I searched out these scenes to share with your readers.
I felt sorry for Megan. She’d worked through lunch and sixth period on her piece, only to watch her computer lose power and take all of her work. She’d been so focused she hadn’t saved anything.
At 3:00, she had to start over. When the power failed, she’d shrieked and stormed about the room, stamping her feet and waving her fists in the direction of the computer that had failed her. I think if she’d had a pistol, she would’ve blasted that computer, and I wouldn’t have blamed her.
Sometimes, I wanted to smash it, too.
"Just then, Megan, who was working at one of the Macs, still struggling to print her term paper, leaped out of her chair as if she were a pogo stick and jumped up and down, shouting out her joy and happiness.
I took that to mean her research paper had finally printed.
When the school day ended, many reporters and editors continued working. Harlan sat next to Amanda and watched her work, waiting to take her home.
Megan—working at one of the other Macs—stopped and turned to look at him. "You’re a big flirt," she said.
"I’m not a flirt." He was defensive.
I couldn't help but add my five cents. "Sure you are, Harlan. Ask Amanda what she thinks."
Amanda nodded silently, indicating she agreed.
"I'm not a flirt," he said with less conviction.
"You’re a cute flirt," Megan said. "We all enjoy watching you when you come in and flirt with Amanda."
Poor Harlan. He looked as if Megan had crushed his confidence. I decided to support him. "Don't worry, Harlan. A girl always knows what to expect from you, because you’re not subtle. When you flirt, it's the same as hitting the girl over the head with a caveman's club."
"I'm staying real late today," Amanda said.
While this was going on, Megan limped around the room with a sprained ankle.
"Mr. Lofthouse, is my right ankle thicker than my left?" She looked concerned.
"I don't know, Megan. You have black stockings on, and I can't see your ankles."
"I'm worried that I won't be able to walk home," she said.
"I'm sure we can find someone to give you a ride. If we can't, I'll tie you to the top of my car and drop you off in front of your apartment."
She frowned, huffed in indignation, tucked her legs under her chair, and turned her back to me to write her final draft.
About 5:00, the infamous flirt Harlan appeared, sat near Megan, and started talking to her. She threw up her arms dramatically and demanded: "Go! Go! Go! Get out of here, and leave me alone! I have work to do, and don’t have time for this!"
With a stunned expression, Harlan stood and said, "I’ve been kicked out by Megan." He left.
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
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-C4X6f0B5g&feature=em-upload_owner About Lloyd Lofthouse:
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-C4X6f0B5g&feature=em-upload_owner About Lloyd Lofthouse:
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.