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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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Interplay 2: Who Am I (Becoming)?



Who Am I (Becoming)?

“I am not,” she said tearfully, “a wart hog. From hell.” But the denial had no force.

Flannery O’Connor (1995) from Revelation

The first house I moved into looked like a cream-colored African adobe. Another house had been arranged for me by the Peace Corps but had been rented out to someone else before I arrived. The solution that was worked out (not by me) was for me to displace the landlord who had rented the first house to someone else, and he would move into the compound inhabited by his four wives. How awkward! The house had concrete floors and cinder block walls, a small living room, two smaller rooms, and a modern bathroom with a modern toilet and faucets—none of which worked. The toilet I had to use was a hole in the ground out back. For the water, I would have children gather it from the community foot-pump well for a few francs and then I would boil and filter it on my gas bottle stove. I had also brought a bed given to me by the Peace Corps (although they had given me the wrong bolts for it and it kept falling apart), a mosquito net, a medical kit, and the clothes and assorted junk I had brought from home. I had no furniture and no cookware. It took me probably all of 30 minutes to get moved in, and I...

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