One of the fundamental precepts of Flat World Teaching is cognizing the diversity of not just our physical classrooms, but of the global community. The concept of teaching in a flat world means that we recognize that our students will engage, interact, and compete with students from all over the globe. Many teachers mistake Flat World Teaching as being a recognition alone of the digital literacies that students need and will need to possess to be productive students and adults. Flat World Teaching is about preparing students to communicate successfully in the globe—not the region, state, or country.
As a teacher, I am always perplexed by the lack of what I call ‘Flat World’ understanding that we, as instructors, have. Aside from being consistently behind the curve on digital tools and resources, there is also a clear lack of cultural sensitivity among some educational structures and people within the field. Now, let’s be clear. I don’t mean to imply that all teachers are insensitive. I DO mean to imply that there is a define lack of cultural awareness, understanding, or appreciation within K-12. Outside of avoiding blatant racist comments and overt acts of racism, I think that this concept is ignored. This of course, is a topic all of its own.
The relevancy to much of the research that I am doing is that this lack of cultural curiosity among those that instruct causes teachers to be ignorant of comments or acts that denigrate or insult different cultures and races in tangible ways that the educator probably just ignores. The solution? Acknowledge that we, as educators, may not interact with the global community in ways that have encouraged cultural awareness, but take steps to investigate cultures. Just learning about cultural practices, differences, and practices is the first step. Understand that there is a world outside of our consciousness that exists and—the key here—has value in ways that we may not understand. The difference between a Flat World teacher and a teacher who ignores the global needs that we all have is the desire to learn about these differences.
A few basic tenets that Flat World teachers follow (or should):
- We need to instill a cultural curiosity in our students. Why? Because the world that they will exist in will be global. They are not competing with the kids in their neighborhood. We want to promote the understanding that the student who looks different has a narrative that has value; even if it does not parallel our own.
- We need to acknowledge that it is our task to make sure that we take steps to model culture consideration and respect for other races, religions, cultures, communities, and social practices. Modeling is the key. If you murmur that Huck Finn includes the N-word and that you can read it out loud if you feel comfortable with it, with no lesson on the nuances of the word, you are invalidating the pain and hurt that it can cause students. What you have done is model for students that this experience or viewpoint that the N-word has negative consequences when said by white adults or teens, you have modeled for students that this is okay and silenced the voice that says otherwise. The claim that you didn’t know or didn’t get it is ignorance. Our ignorance of something does not suddenly invalidate its existence. As an educator in a Flat World, you are responsible for leading these discussions and setting a culturally responsive tone.
- We need to become students. LEARN. Picking up a book or reading a few articles should not be a challenge for those of us who are educators. Isn’t that what we tell kids to do? It hurts my heart when I hear from readers about experiences at their schools where educators say things like, “I notice all the Hispanics sitting together. That shows you that they just want to be with their own kind.” The ignorance of those types of utterances shows me that this educator has not picked up a single piece of scholarly research on the topic. They have relied on their observations to inform their expert opinion. In a global world you need to know about who you teach. READ. Find out. Don’t rely on your experiences. Your experiences are singular and do not inform the experiences of the Flat Classroom.
- Take off your expert hat and acknowledge that you have a singular view of the world. You know how AA has the famous, or infamous, first step? Admit you have a problem. We all need to put down the façade of knowledge keeper and acknowledge that we have one point of view covered—our own. Admitting and embracing ignorance of something lets you put the wheels in motion to start growing and learning. Teach your students that there is so much more that you and they don’t know about the global community. This opens up opportunities to learn.
Flat World Teaching is about preparing students to be successful in a world where the majority of people are what we, in America, describe as minorities. Flat World Teaching is about teaching students the skills and literacies that are being practiced and mastered by students across the globe. Flat World Teaching is about recognizing that this not the America of yesteryear. This is about the expansion of the community that we live in, and developing the tools to communicate and learn in a way that is meaningful and tangible.