Confronting Sexuality, Violence, and Secrets in a Suburban School
By Jo Scott-Coe
Why would a high school teacher who loves teaching leave school—after half a career in the classroom?
Teacher at Point Blank answers this question at a time when concerns about school performance, safety, and teacher attrition are at an all-time and often anxious high. Meditating on subtle and overt forms of violence in secondary public education from an up-close and “pink collar” point of view, Jo Scott-Coe examines her own workplace as a microcosm of the national compulsory K-12 system, where teachers—now nearly 80% women—find themselves idealized and disparaged, expected to embody the dedication of parents, the coldness of data managers, and the obedience of Stepford spouses. Haunted and compelled forward by memories of a classmate who commits suicide on campus, a former teacher-colleague who dies all alone, Hollywood fantasies of the “ideal teacher,” and chronic reports of school violence and increasing gender crime, Scott-Coe reveals how her hopes, past and present, struggle for breath at the point blank of denial, confinement, addiction, isolation, hostility, subliminal eroticism—and, at times, a healthy dose of fear.
Jo Scott Coe's very fine memoir of her teaching life is unlike anything I have read before. Her lean prose is unyielding to sentimentality and aspires always toward honesty about our lives as adults and as children. One is, here, in the presence of a writer who convinces us that teaching young lives is a constant and, sometimes, terrible journey of adult self-discovery.
—Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
This unique and daring book lifts the cheerful, can-do mask that hides the reality of what it means to be a teacher. In luminous prose, Jo Scott-Coe debunks the sentimentalized mystique, exposing the harsh reality of extreme expectations, isolation, and psychic disconnect that engulfs teachers' lives. Scott-Coe's truth is at once disturbing and emancipating.
—Susan Ohanian, author of Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?
Jo Scott-Coe writes with humor, insight, and a deep love for her subject. In many ways, she has become a voice for her generation and for teachers, too. Remarkable.
—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames