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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 4: And a Good Time Was Had by All



And a Good Time Was Had by All

He liked parades with floats full of Miss Americas and Miss Daytona Beaches and Miss Queen Cotton Products. He didn’t have any use for processions and a procession full of school teachers was about as deadly as the River Styx to his way of thinking.

Flannery O’Connor (1995) from A Late Encounter with the Enemy

The best time to be in a small African village was during the celebrations and gatherings that came just in the nick of time to save us from absolute boredom. Luckily, Cameroonians know how to have a good time. They have a genuine interest in people, they love dancing to wild, throbbing music, they have an interesting sense of fashion (I saw one guy wearing pants made out of green shag carpeting), they have no earthly idea what time it is so the party may just go on forever, and they have a natural flair for the dramatic. Whether it was a religious holiday, a tribal meeting or ritual, or a school function, it was a chance for everyone to come together to break the daily monotony of small village life and give us something to talk about for the next few weeks, until something else happened to divert our attention.

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