A vividly drawn portrait of a New York City English teacher and her impassioned battles on behalf of her students with Board of Education regulations, mimeograph machines, and the limitations of a 24-hour day. New York Times reporter Freedman follows Jessica Siegel, an English/journalism teacher at a Lower East Side public high-school, through a school year in and out of the classroom. During that year, Siegel struggles to reach students with multiple barriers to learning (chaotic lives, English usually a second language, frequent relocations, poverty, drug-ridden neighborhoods), attempts to find college placements for some of the brightest and most motivated, and treads her own path toward a final, agonizing decision to leave classroom teaching, a victim of ""Teacher Burnout."" More than just offering a Manhattan version of Tracy Kidder's Among Schoolchildren, though, Freedman widens the scope of his account by deftly weaving in discussions of American educational history, N.Y.C. politics, colleagues' and students' lives, and histories of the students' native lands (as disparate as the Dominican Republic and rural China). In doing so, he illuminates the political and social reasons for the tremendous difficulties faced by teachers and students in underfunded urban schools. A colorful, fast-moving stream of lives and hopes raised or dashed, dramatizing the contradictions and deficiencies of the American educational system.