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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 3: Chez nous c’est ne pas comme chez vous!



Chez nous c’est ne pas comme chez vous!

“Everybody is different,” Mrs. Hopewell said.

“Yes, most people is,” Mrs. Freeman said.

“It takes all kinds to make the world.”

“I always said it did myself.”

Flannery O’Connor (1995) from Good Country People

If there was one thing Cameroon taught me, it was the powerful influence that culture has on people. I’m not sure that you can get a clear understanding of this until you have actually lived in another culture yourself. If you’ve only lived in one place for all of your life, you may get the notion that the rules you grew up with were the only ones and the right ones, or maybe you never even realized that there were rules at all. I have come to the conclusion that culture has a high degree of control over people without them even knowing about it.

Basically, culture was waiting around every corner of Cameroon just to slap me in the face. Even when I could see it coming, there were times that I couldn’t get out of its way. For example, I knew that if an event was to begin at say 1:00 p.m., it wouldn’t actually start until at least 2 hours later. But try as I might, I’d sit and I’d squirm and I’d pace until I just couldn’t stand to wait any more and I would...

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