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Teaching in the inner city demands strength, courage and devotion on a daily basis. After twenty-two years on the educational battleground, veteran English teacher Johnny Spector finds himself fighting on several fronts—his students’ turf wars, his engagement with a corrupt and short-sighted school administration, and his own marriage, which has suffered flak damage and neglect. There are, after all, only twenty-four hours in a day.
After two decades, Spector is running on empty. The hard-nosed common sense approach no longer cuts it in the age of PC, and the bad-boy of the faculty (he married a former student) has overplayed his hand one too many times.
With a divorce in progress, the looming threat of losing his son, as well as his professional position and reputation, Johnny Spector needs one more reason to care.
Her name is Tracy Singer—a twenty-five year old student teacher who seems to have been invented by Neiman Marcus and coddled in the north shore suburbs of Chicago. Her idea of roughing it is showing up to work in anything less than a designer original. Her heart is in the right place, but she is as green as they come.
With no patience for the ivory tower brand of educational philosophy or the haughty demeanor that accompanies it, Spector puts Ms. Singer through the moves of the down and dirty barrio boot camp, and acquaints her with the realities of the streets. His students, his “Streethearts” need him like never before, and he refuses to give in to bureaucracy or decorum—refuses even to let his own domestic duties interfere with his mission. And that, in short, is the beginning of his downfall. One part determined student advocate, one part wise-ass iconoclast, and too many shots over the top, Johnny Spector might just be his own worst enemy when it comes to holding the whole act together.
Luckily, an unlikely source of wisdom, his father-in-law, Miguel Valentin, begins to grow on him, and Spector learns that teachers sometimes come in the most unrecognizable guises. His original love may still be viable. Perhaps he has lost sight of his own family in his fight to stay true to his students, his streethearts.
This is a story of educational war, of coming of age, and recognizing that sometimes, breaking the rules makes sense—street sense.