Kopp and Stevens

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Constituting Polyvocal Professionalism

As we will elaborate on our next web page, the Southern Arizona Writing Project (SAWP) video consistently upholds the professionalism of teachers. Despite this coherent message, the video is notably inclusive, offering diverse possibilities for identifying that professionalism. It includes instructors from Kindergarten to twelfth grade; it articulates a place for instructors from across the curriculum, not just English; it includes administrative speakers such as superintendents and school principals; and it articulates within a single project participants from across southern Arizona. The value of the SAWP video could easily be summed up with Anne-Marie Hall's (2002) comment in "Expanding the Community: A Comprehensive Look at Outreach and Articulation": "Good teaching must be defined publicly and it must be defined by many voices" (p. 317).

The video's polyvocality represents SAWP, but it takes representation another step to help constitute further diversity as SAWP fulfills its mission. Historically, SAWP has most effectively reached those closest (both literally and metaphorically) to the University of Arizona English Department: those in Tucson over those in the southern corners of the state; those in cities over rural schools; those in high schools over those in kindergartens; those in English over teachers in other subjects. Yet SAWP is committed to reaching a diverse constituency and to offering teachers multiple ways to identify with the project. The video therefore gives priority to underrepresented groups, as shown in the above video examples. Additionally, teachers from many educational levels and from diverse ethnic backgrounds appear on screen and share their experiences with SAWP, although, in the case of ethnic diversity, this is a more direct representation of the diversity of those already involved in SAWP.

The effect of these articulations is that while a common ground is created through a coherent, professional teacher identity, the video over-represents existing diversity to recruit, through identification, a range of teacher-participants who might further extend SAWP as a program that serves a diverse constituency. While public conversation about writing instruction has closed around overly narrow and universal standards, the SAWP video opens a space to discuss the situated--and, therefore, necessarily diverse--knowledge and experience of professional classroom teachers.

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