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  Case: Donít Hold Hands
Ade and Elsa are two 7th grade girls from Indonesia who joined our school couple months ago. I teach them Physical Science. They have well-developed English skills. Although they have an accent, they can communicate with teachers and fellow students. I am very sensitive to the needs of newly-arrived immigrant students, so I paid close attention when I heard rumors from other students about them. Students started spreading that Ade and Elsa were in a lesbian relationship. Apparently Ade and Elsa heard about the rumors; they came to me in tears. I asked them to tell me what was going on. What I found out was very interesting. Ade and Elsa have known each other since they were small children and they have always been best friends. Their families decided to move to the US together. Their fathers applied for jobs in the same company. They both received offers and moved together. Ade and Elsa were excited about going to the same school in US and continuing their friendship. In Indonesia, same-gender friends holding hands is very common and indicates friendship. When children at our school saw Ade and Elsa holding hands they thought that Ade and Elsa were in a lesbian relationship. I have to do something about this. I see two options before me: I will explain to the children in my classes that friends holding hands in some cultures is completely normal, or I will tell Ade and Elsa to not hold hands to avoid these rumors. The second option seems culturally insensitive, but if Ade and Elsa continue holding hands, rumors will continue even if I explain to my students the cultural side of their friendship. What should I do? If you have an original solution to this issue, please advice.
Solution: (Rates are posted for this solution!)
Probably, the best solution would be a combination of the two. I would explain to the students that different cultures show friendship in different ways. I would also explain the problem to the girls in a caring way. I wouldn't tell them not to hold hands; I would simply explain to them why the rumors were being started and let them make their own decision about the hand holding.
 
     
     
  Rating
The suggested solution is respectful of the individual (student) Yes
The suggested solution is relevant to the case Yes
The suggested solution is reasonable (easy) for the teacher to implement Yes
The suggested solution is likely to solve the problem/issue Yes
The suggested solution is original Yes
Comments: I also believe that this is a highly sensitive topic and that it should be approached with care. I believe that our school systems are not doing enough to recognize cultural diversity. As a middle school teacher, I know that if one person has said that about Ade and Elsa then everyone has heard it. That is why I believe that the school should host a cultural celebration. This is an event where students who have cultures that are different from the mainstream cultures of America have the opportunity to explain their unique customs, beliefs, and traditions. I would find as many students willing to share something about their culture share so that this school could begin to accept others for their differences and have some tolerance. After the school-wide celebration, I would encourage each classroom to celebrate everyone's culture in some shape, way, or form every month. We did this when I was in middle school. One month we baked traditional holiday desserts. Another month we taught everyone traditional sports and games of our culture.

I would also explain to Ade and Elsa that regardless of how many cultural celebrations we have, that someone in this school will say that you are gay because you are holding each others hands. I would make sure they knew that this was the source of the rumors and torment. Great post.
Rated On: September 5, 2013 6:25 pm
Rated By: jaMyDu
 
     
     
  Rating
The suggested solution is respectful of the individual (student) Yes
The suggested solution is relevant to the case Yes
The suggested solution is reasonable (easy) for the teacher to implement Yes
The suggested solution is likely to solve the problem/issue Yes
The suggested solution is original Yes
Comments: Explaining that different cultures do things in different ways is a very good solution.
Rated On: October 18, 2014 7:19 pm
Rated By: Amanda Meredith