More Thoughts on Public-Facing Work

This isn’t a Valentine’s-themed post, but: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Last night, I met with several members of MCELA via Zoom.  We were putting our heads together on an upcoming presentation that was, much like my work during Monday’s testimony, very public-facing.

It got me to thinking, in some detail, about the scope of the public-facing work that WPAs do.  Such work was discussed frequently in my own WPA training as a graduate student, and I credit frequent conversations with Linda Adler-Kassner (and re-readings of The WPA Activist) as shaping my continued thinking on the matter.  So it has been on my mind since before I was even hired as a WPA.

But, at the same time, I think the on-the-ground experience of engaging in public-facing work really varies quite widely.  After all, I did not imagine, upon being hired at UMaine, that such work would take me to an NCTE affiliate, and then to revising the ELA standards, and then to offering testimony.  They were all kind of like responses to situations that could benefit from my training.  (And my charming personality, but that goes without saying.)MCELA Website

It would be interesting to think about a guide through that sort of decision-making.  How do we come to see what sorts of public-facing work we need to do, based on the needs of our programs, institutions, and localities?  What sorts of heuristics can guide our thinking?

I’m sure at least some of that ends up being dumped in the laps of WPAs, almost as sort of a fire to put out.  But that explanation, while certainly accounting for a bit of my work, doesn’t account for the work I’ve done with MCELA (or why I joined them in the first place, for that matter).

Working out some sort of guide would no doubt be extremely helpful to new WPAs as they try to get a sense of the context they are working in.  I’m not sure I have the experience yet to create that kind of guide, but surely someone does.  And, besides, it’s interesting to think about what that kind of document would look like.


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