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We Became Teachers: The Influence of Personal Reading on Curriculum Understanding Open Access

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The books we care about are part of us (Sumara 1996, 2002). It is the story of this literary experience as told by three currently practicing English teachers that interests me when I ask, "How does a teacher's personal reading inform his or her understanding of curriculum?" Seeking the representation of this story, I employ qualitative methods that value unique perspectives, interpretations, and the presence of my subjectivity (van Manen, 1990; Seidman, 2006; Jardine, 2006). The combined use of autobiography--in the tradition of currere (Pinar, 1975)--and the hermeneutic method (Heidegger, 2008; Nakkula & Ravitch, 1998) best matches this responsibility. By representing the profound impact of personal reading on my teaching of literature, I contribute my autobiographical voice and story to this study. This dissertation is influenced by contemporary literary theory, Sumara's (1996, 2002) scholarship on reading and curriculum, and Rosenblatt's (1994, 1995) reader response theory. Data collection follows Seidman's (2006) discussion of semi-structured conversations, analysis is performed with attention to van Manen's (1990) qualitative human science design, and representation is carried out following Seidman's (2006) description of participant narrative profiles. I begin this analysis by exploring two super-ordinate themes: personal reading and curriculum understanding. Sub-themes in the area of personal reading are unique. Sub-themes representing curriculum understanding are consistent across participants. These sub-themes include a teacher's definition of curriculum, professional identity, and teaching of literature. Analysis reveals a recognizable relationship between each teacher's personal reading and curriculum understanding: each teacher's personal reading experience is reflected in his or her teaching of literature. Through its exploration of the relationship between personal reading and curriculum understanding, this study provides a glimpse into the tangled intricacies of curriculum. Since many reading experiences described in this work were born outside of the classroom, this study confirms the perspective that curriculum includes all learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Beyond this confirmation, this study reaffirms several key components of teaching and learning: the fundamental function of literature to interrupt familiarity, the role of teacher as interrupter, and the respect for existential experience as a source of scholarship.

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