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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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Chapter 2: Toward a Pedagogy of Creativity and Caring


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Joe was a 58-year-old Hispanic male teaching sophomore English at the time of my interviews with him. Joe had also taught speech at an inner-city high school for 1 year and then speech and journalism at another high school for 5 years prior to joining the Peace Corps. During his Peace Corps service, Joe taught English as a foreign language at a university in an urban city in the Eastern European country of Moldova from 2006 to 2008. I met Joe at his home on a hot and dry sunny summer morning. Outside, cotton-candy clouds filled the wide blue sky. Inside, we sat face to face with a small table between us in front of two large open windows at the front of his house. As we talked, the curtains floated up from time to time thanks to a gentle breeze, and as they moved back and forth, they sounded like soft ocean waves lapping the seashore. During the interview there were also birds chirping, a mourning dove cooing, and cicadas intermittently stopping and starting their engines. It was as if nature were providing both an audience and background music for our interview. Later we also took a short tour of the town where Joe lived and continued our interview at the high school where he taught. ← 43 | 44 →

One of the first things I noticed about Joe was that he wore a...

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