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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 7: Envisioning a Kaleidoscopic Curriculum


· 7 ·


Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope—a slight change and all patterns alter. (Sharon Salzberg, n.d.)

The artful curriculum theorist Dwayne Huebner (1999) wrote the following passage in 1966—the year of my birth:

The curriculum becomes a symbol of his life; to make this curriculum stand out with beauty and truths requires artistic power. Somehow the educator must not solve educational problems. He makes his mark on the world through his artistry, by projecting himself out into the world so he can say: “This is what I am, what I believe. Here is my contribution to the truth and the beauty in the world.” (p. 127)

In spite of the use of gendered language that was common in the 1960s, what I appreciate about Huebner’s statement is the idea that curriculum can be a work of art. That this work of art is designed to exemplify the educator’s vision—their beliefs, their feelings, and the ways in which they go about making meaning. Further, that curriculum is a way to enter into a broader more worldly dialogue that goes beyond the educational realm. This refreshing perspective brings much needed life into the discussion of curriculum and demonstrates that curriculum is an intensely personal undertaking, and as such is not ← 213 | 214 → prone to mass replication. The following is my simple contribution, my work of art. It is not meant to solve educational problems, but...

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