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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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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Smythe, Jon L. Shifting the kaleidoscope: returned Peace Corps volunteer educators’ insights on culture shock, identity & pedagogy / Jon L. Smythe. pages cm. — (Complicated conversation; Vol. 46) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Educational anthropology. 2. Volunteer workers in education—Developing countries—Attitudes. 3. Volunteer workers in education—United States—Attitudes. 4. Peace Corps (U.S.) 5. Culture shock. 6. Reverse culture shock. I. Title. LB45.S594  306.43—dc23   2014033102 ISBN 978-1-4331-2684-0 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4331-2683-3 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-4539-1437-3 (e-book) ISSN 1534-2816 Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

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