Kevin’s narrative accomplishes several important kinds of work. For example, Kevin uses the story to establish what Kenneth and Mary Gergen (1983) call the “progressive” (p. 259) plot of his life as a writer: from someone considered a poor writer in high school to a professor of writing at Old Dominion University. Kevin also establishes his own professional identity, positioning himself in relational terms to other teachers. He adequates (Bucholtz and Hall, 2006, p. 599) with contemporary teachers of composition such as David Bartholomae who identify a complex set of factors associated with genre and social expectations that shape students’ efforts to write within the academy and the importance of working with students to improve both their performance and self-confidence as writers.

Kevin also positions himself oppositionally to less progressive teachers of composition, distinguishing (Bucholtz and Hall, 2006, p. 599) himself from faculty, like his former teacher, who prematurely evaluate students’ efforts to write academic prose and thoughtlessly embarrass them by placing their imperfect products on display, thus damaging their self-confidence as writers. This identification work also has political implications, positioning Kevin, in relational terms, among the more progressive and informed members of composition studies as an academic profession.

For scholars of composition as an academic profession, the identification work that Kevin accomplishes with his narrative also provides a historical and cultural snapshot of a trend that characterized the field of composition studies from the late 1960s to the 1980s: In his narrative, looking backward in 2009 from the perspective of a profession that has invested in the tenets of New Rhetoric, Kevin evaluates the pedagogical limitations of teaching approaches informed by a more traditional approach (Current Traditional Rhetoric). From this position, Kevin interprets his own lived experiences as a student told by teachers that he was a poor writer. Kevin then identifies his own personal investment in teaching approaches informed by socio-cultural understandings of composition and rhetoric (New Rhetoric) and uses these understandings to explain his own pedagogical approach to teaching writing, an approach based on the thinking of scholars such as James Berlin (1897) and Ann Berthoff (1982).

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Learning to write is not a matter of learning the rules that govern the use of the semicolon or the names of sentence structures, nor is it a matter of manipulating words; it is a matter of making meanings, and that is the work of the active mind.

(Berthoff, 1982, p. 11)