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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!)
Children can be cruel, and our responsibility as teachers is to create a classroom environment that is safe, respectful, and nurturing. I would first do community building exercises with my students. Activities that promote discussion and sharing would be key. I would do pair and share activities where students in pairs interview each other. Then the students would introduce their partners to the class. Activities like this build community and understanding. Next, I would consider creating a classroom behavior contract. This is when as a class, the students decide what is and isn't acceptable behavior within the classroom. This contract will be posted on the wall. After this, I would have create several group activities to further the classroom community. If Ade and Elsa continue to be bullied after this, I will consult the class behavior contract. Did the students include bullying as unacceptable behavior? Another route I would take in Physical Science, is including projects that teaches students about the geography of various countries. Students would supplement the geography of a country with facts about the country's culture. This would give Ade and Elsa a chance to discuss their culture and allowing other students a chance to learn about other cultures as well. This might sound like sidestepping the issue, but having a strong and culturally sensitive classroom management plan would help prevent issues similar to this.
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: The solution offered provides a structured format and multiple opportunities to address the inappropriate behavior and also provides consequences for continued intolerance and misconduct. The establishment of a formal agreement to guide student relations will certainly serve to cause students to think before acting. The exercises also help to build a sense of community and improve students' relationships.
Rated On: June 28, 2013 9:19 pm
Rated By: PyruNe