Tag Archives: Marshall Kahan

Failing by Half

At the end of the school year, the principal asked why half the kids I was teaching were failing. Easy answer. They didn’t work. Half the boys were hyperactive. James was either spinning like a top or picking fights. Hardly any of the kids did homework. Most the boys failed miserably and everyone was below reading level except a few of the girls.

I suspect that the word hyperactive is one of those words that political correctness disapproves of. Calling a kid hyperactive was replaced with ADHD, because it doesn’t sound as negative. Boosting self-esteem means changing words even if they mean the same thing. I never did agree with the self-esteem movement.

The principal said a fifty-percent fail rate was unacceptable. I refused to lower my standards so kids that hadn’t worked would be given passing grades. The principal wrote in my annual evaluation that he was not recommending me for a full-time position, because I hadn’t learned to be a team member.

USO Show, Chu Lai, Vietnam - 1966

I wouldn’t see Marshall Kahan for several years. The next time we met, I would be teaching at Alvarado Intermediate with Grendel as the principal. Marshall had transferred from Romier looking for a school without razor wire and bullet holes in the doors.

See Grendels Closed Door Policy


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Explosive Father

I took a step away from James’s father and moved behind the desk. While keeping an eye on him, I started looking for objects I could use as a weapon.

Lloyd Lofthouse at least ten feet underground in the comm bunker (Chu Lai, Vietnam - 1966).

The reading specialist appeared along with Marshall. They’d heard the yelling. After stopping the father’s tirade, the reading specialist explained that I was not responsible for assigning the book to James.

The specialist then took James’s father to his office. There was no apology for the outburst and the insults. I had discovered where James’s anger came from. He’d inherited or learned it from his explosive father.

I wondered where the father had been for most of the semester. I’d called the house a number of times and left messages. He had not attended parent conferences. In fact, I contacted all the parents when homework wasn’t turned in. I spent hours on the phone running into dead-ends and hearing empty promises from lousy parents.

See Razor Wire


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Razor Wire

In 1976-77, Romier elementary had razor wire on the roofs to keep vandals off. On Mondays, it was common to find fresh bullet holes in the doors. Once, we arrived to find the doorknobs had been beaten off. On another Monday, we couldn’t park our cars in the parking lot because all the lights had been shot out, and the lot was littered with shards of glass.

First Tank Battalion, First Marine Division, Chu Lai, Vietnam

That year, I made a friend with another teacher. The union rep for the school was Marshal Kahan. Soon after I was hired as a long-term sub, he came to the classroom and offered support and advice. During our conversation, I learned he was also a former United States Marine.

We stayed friends for thirty years and hiked the San Gabriel Mountains together for more than a decade before Marshall was diagnosed with leukemia. He died eight years after the diagnoses. I still miss the loss of his friendship.

The other incident is when James’s father came to shout at me, because his son’s reading score had not improved. I was alone the afternoon the father walked in unexpectedly. He cursed and accused me of being incompetent. He threw the reading book on the floor and said I’d put his son in a book that was too difficult. I shifted my body stance so one side faced him. I’d been taught hand-to-hand combat in the Marines and fought in Vietnam. If he was going to attack, I wanted to be ready.

Discover a Square Peg in a Round Hole


Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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