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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 3: Toward a Pedagogy of Non-Prejudice


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Harley was a 33-year-old Filipino American woman who was working as an associate director of International Programs and Services at a Midwestern university when we met for our interviews. She also taught a class called “Transitions,” which was a freshman experience course designed to help newly arrived international students adjust to American culture. In addition, she also offered intercultural communication presentations not only for international students, but also for local students and community members. For her Peace Corps service, Harley taught English at the primary and secondary levels and held conversation classes for local teachers in Kazakhstan from 1999 to 2001. Additionally, she was the first volunteer to serve in the small rural village where she taught. After completing her Peace Corps service, Harley also taught English for a total of 9 years in four different countries: Thailand, Japan, Poland, and Kyrgyzstan. She recently received her PhD in Education & Human Resource Studies.

I first met Harley at a local coffee shop in the small Midwestern university town where she lived and worked. As I sat waiting for Harley in the coffee shop, I was slightly annoyed by the people at the table next to me who ← 77 | 78 → appeared to be two grandparents minding a child of about three. The grandparents kept saying things like, “What do you want to drink, Bonnie? Bonnie, do you want milk or do you want a soda? Come...

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