Tag Archives: teaching in the American public schools

The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 3/3

All the negative media and criticism of “ignorant idiots” that public school teachers in the U.S. and their unions are failing America’s children doesn’t explain why the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), reported that between 19% and 23% of American adults performed at the top levels for each of the three literacy scales: document literacy, prose literacy and quantitative (number) literacy.

Sweden is the only country that scored higher.

Countries that have participated in the IALS are Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Chili, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungry, Italy, Norway, and Slovenia.

The IALS is an international comparative study designed to provide participating countries, including the United States, with information about the skills of their adult populations. The IALS measured the literacy and numeracy skills of a nationally representative sample from each participating country. Source:

As I was writing about the IALS, I thought if this survey had been widely reported in the media as much as the 2009 PISA test results were, the media and critics of U.S. public schools would look for statistics from this survey that were negative and report the glass half empty and never mention the glass is more than half full.

From Retaining, we learn how tough it is in America’s public schools from the teacher turnover rate.

The same stress that causes PTSD in teachers that stay in education may also drive qualified teachers away.

Ingersoll (1999, 2001, 2002a) proposed the schoolteacher hiring and quitting cycle is a revolving door.

Ingersoll (2001) analyzed national data and concluded the teacher shortages in public schools is not because of teacher retirement but a revolving door in which almost half the new teachers leave within five years, while another study (Barbour – 2006) found that shortages of well-prepared teachers in public schools exist because 22% of new teachers leave within five years.

However, another study found that 28% of teachers that left self-reported they would return if school conditions improved (Futernick, 2007)

Return to The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 2 or start with Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “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.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Grendel’s Closed Door Policy – Part 2/4

During one of those Soviet rotations at Alvarado Intermediate, a new principal arrived, who I will call Grendel. In a few years, half the teachers at Alvarado quit or requested transfers to other schools.

On Grendel’s first day at Alvarado, we had a staff meeting after school to meet the beast.

Grendel stood there like a thin dragon with yellow teeth without reptilian skin. Tobacco breath had a raspy Marlboro voice.

Grendel had a flip chart. As the pages flapped like bat wings, I saw words and crude drawings (memory is vague but I do remember Grendel flipping page after page).

Grendel’s voice rasped, “If your students fail, it is your fault. It is your job to motivate and teach them.”

Each time he spoke, it was a blow to the solar plexus and a pain in the gluteus maximus.

Grendel said, “If your students misbehave, it is your fault. It is your job to control them. If you have problems with a student or a parent, my door is closed. Don’t come to me for help. The white-collar parents that live in this neighborhood are difficult, and I don’t need that stress.”

Continued in Grendel’s Closed Door Policy – Part 3 or return to Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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