Are teachers resourceful, industrious, and dedicated--or uninspired, pessimistic, and unwilling to be held accountable? All of the above, of course, as this balanced collection of impressions from Los Angeles Times writers Collins and Frantz (From the Ground Up, 1991, etc.) makes clear. The authors interviewed close to 150 teachers in 70 schools around the country on a variety of pertinent subjects--''Children,'' ``Parents,'' ``Discipline,'' ``Respect,'' ``Trade Secrets''--and have come up with insightful, if unsurprising, conclusions. Teachers in general, Collins and Frantz find, are committed and hard-working but stymied--by unresponsive bureaucracies, large class size, diminished school budgets, and changes in society that add other jobs to the teaching load. Many feel a sense of mission (``I believe in the sun, even when it doesn't shine'') and work despite constant hurdles and the prospect--or experience--of violence (a particularly chilling chapter). In addition, most regret how little they're consulted, not only about school policies but also on academic issues like bilingual education and curriculum content. Collins and Frantz, as well as many teachers, believe that the top-to-bottom management style, based on the 19th-century factory model, no longer applies, and that teachers must assume new roles and renegotiate the school scenario, turning education into a ``shared enterprise,'' with parents and other staff included in the decision-making process. Candid observations, presented in a satisfying and serviceable format.