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Shifting the Kaleidoscope

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Educators’ Insights on Culture Shock, Identity and Pedagogy


Jon L. Smythe

This book examines culture shock and reverse culture shock as valuable learning experiences for educators working in increasingly culturally diverse environments. Although these phenomena are often cast as illnesses to be avoided, this study suggests that both types of shock can help educators develop greater self-understanding and intercultural awareness and will benefit their pedagogical practices as well. For this study, four returned Peace Corps volunteer educators who have taught at various grade levels, both abroad and in the United States, share thought-provoking stories of how their experiences shifted their identities and their approaches to teaching. A Post-structural hermeneutic framework is used to analyze each story in two separate «readings» as a way of disrupting the flow of each text so that other possible meanings may emerge. The metaphor of the kaleidoscope develops from the study as a way to imagine a curriculum in motion – one in which new and often surprising patterns are created by shifting, juxtaposing and refocusing the multiple lenses within. Shifting the Kaleidoscope should appeal to those readers who are interested in curriculum studies, multicultural education, intercultural awareness, narrative inquiry, post-structuralism, international studies, the Peace Corps and/or teaching English abroad.
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Although my name appears front and center on this book, many people behind the scenes helped to bring it to fruition. Foremost among these was Dr. Hongyu Wang, who acted as a light along the pathway. Through her gentle yet determined guidance as well as her unwavering support and belief in my stories, she has opened up innumerable possibilities for reimagining my research and my relationship with the world in general. Without her, this book would not be possible. For that I am both grateful and humbled. I also want to express my deep gratitude to my professors at Oklahoma State University: Dr. Kathryn Castle, Dr. Denise Blum, Dr. Ravi Sheorey, Dr. Pam Brown, Dr. Gretchen Schwartz, and Dr. Gene Halleck. Each of these professors’ teaching and insights have helped get me moving in the right direction, and their caring support of both me and my work has taught me the invaluable role of an educator in a student’s life. Special thanks also go to William F. Pinar for his support of this book. His critical and imaginative work continues to inspire new generations of educators and curriculum theorists. Thanks, too, to Chris Myers and all the staff at Peter Lang Publishing for helping bring this book to life.

I also want to thank the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who participated in this study for sharing their provocative and insightful stories. The stories ← xi | xii → I have included in this book, including my own, represent our...

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