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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!)
I like the idea of turning the cultural lesson into a class project. Making a comparison of holding hands in Indonesia to gestures that the students are familiar with in the United States (a montage of football players slapping one another on the butt comes to mind) could also be an effective way of helping other students relate to Ade and Elsa.
There are several problems with this scenario, however. First Ade and Elsa are in middle school, and many of their peers have already established which social constructs are acceptable to them and which arenít, so it is more difficult to help these students develop new ways of looking at social differences than it might be for younger students. Also, a class project would only affect one class, and, presumably, Ade and Elsa rotate between many classes throughout the day. Finally, at the heart of the problem is not that other students think that these girls are lesbians but that they think that there is something wrong with being a lesbian. In order to fully solve Ade and Elsaís problem, we must first address what is wrong with the way our students view relationships which differ from what they consider normal.
In the short term, a frank discussion with Ade and Elsa about the perceived implications of their actions might be helpful. However, the other studentsí response to the girls is only a symptom of the disease. Real social change, at both classroom and regional levels, will require teacher and student collaboration, buy-in, and open-mindedness in order to overcome the way of thinking which has framed Ade and Elsaís problem.
 
     
     
  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:
Rated On: May 24, 2013 10:20 am
Rated By: vezaMu
 
     
     
  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 like your identification of the real issue - the school's culture towards being a lesbian.
Rated On: September 2, 2013 9:43 pm
Rated By: Tracy C
 
     
     
  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 agree turning this situation into a cultural lesson will cut down on some of the rumors and may help open other students eyes to different cultures.
Rated On: October 14, 2014 5:53 pm
Rated By: MaByvu