An Honest Look at Urban Schools
Published in 2014
Throughout the 1994-95 school year Lloyd Lofthouse, a veteran high school English and Journalism teacher teaching in a rough "inner city" type of environment in California, kept a daily journal of his experiences. Finally, he worked them up into this book.
First, I think that I need to tell you that I am a 25 year teacher and I have spent 15 of those 25 years teaching in what some would euphemistically call "urban" schools. I also agree with Lofthouse's comments about so-called education reform and fads in education like the self-esteem movement. For those reasons I found this book to be compelling - I simply flew right through it.
The book is mostly a set of journal entries with the occasional expanded commentary and, rarely, a reference to an article or a study about education. The way the book is set up is its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The book rolls along day after day just like a real school year does - unrelenting, seemingly unending yet with never enough time. Each class has its own distinct personality, some kids improve but most bad students just remain, sadly, bad students. Quite simply, he nails the day-to-day grind of teaching.
But, the lack of elaboration on the school, its students, its staff hurts the book. Lofthouse leaves out almost all details about his family. When he mentions he has a wife I was shocked. When he mentions his son at the end of the book I was even more shocked. The home vs. work balancing act is a tough one for most teachers and deserves a lot of exploration.
Lofthouse's commentary on district-level administration and the way they forget what it is like in the classroom is dead-on correct. I would have loved to have read what Lofthouse thought about some of the new trends in education like Common Core.
Lofthouse's confession that he found himself attracted to one of his students makes for uncomfortable reading. Thankfully, he never acted on those feelings but it leaves an taint on the book.
Despite that, this book is one of the very few serious descriptions that I have read about education in the real world by a real teacher with real students over the long haul. That makes it worth reading.
Note: I was sent a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Crazy is Normal: a classroom exposé
Reviewed on October 28, 2014
"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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