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  Case: Don’t 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!)
I once read that “much of the assumption we make about other people come not from what we’ve been told, but what we have not been told”. In this scenario, I believe that this case should be a classic moment for educating students on the difference of various cultures. The key is to be creative so that the two Indonesian students do not feel the discussion is directed towards them. One would not want them to have to endure any further embarrassment. Because I teach an ELA course, I would integrate the discussion through the cultural context of a text we were reading. For example, if we were studying Antigone, I would provide a little background about Greek culture and how women were perceive and what was considered acceptable and non-acceptable. Then I would segue into what is acceptable and not acceptable in American culture and have student immigrants and children of student immigrants provide examples from their culture. I would even allow a brief segment of question and answer and comparison and contrast. I think allowing students to bask in a moment of discovery would be educational for both the Indonesian students and the class.
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 educating American students about other cultures might help to reduce a lot of misunderstandings between American students and immigrant students. A lot of these young kids are still trying to find themselves and do not know how to behave towards something they count as abnormal; so we cannot really blame them for how they behaved towards these girls but if they have some inkling about how people from other cultures behave, they might not have the same reaction and might not count holding hands as an act of lesbianism
Rated On: September 19, 2015 8:55 pm
Rated By: yWasyD