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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!)
Seeing that this case study is occurring in a middle school makes me adjust my perspective a bit as middle schooler's can tend to be more "vicious". I think that addressing the students and sharing with them this cultural difference is extremely necessary. Not only that, but I would go on to emphasize that it is the student's job at the school to make sure that they are not only welcoming to new students, but that they also represent their families and their country in a positive light to foreigners. Sharing cultural differences from kissing on the cheek when greeting someone to shaking hands or hugging goodbye is something that many other cultures view as uncommon. Share these examples with the class and have them reflect on their findings. While the teasing will probably not stop altogether, by addressing these facts with the children I believe more students will appreciate the new knowledge and stand up for Elsa and Ade.

When comforting the girls, I would apologize for the lack of respect from their fellow classmates and I would go on to explain to them that while they are adapting to a new environment, so are their classmates. In science you learn about plant/animal adaptations and this is a perfect example. While Elsa and Ade do not need to abandon their culture, they will find that once adjusting to their new home that some things are different. I would encourage the girls to share information with the class about their hometown in Indonesia and if they are comfortable answering questions from the students I think that would be pivotal in their social life. Students are quick to judge what is different or unknown. It is our job to make sure we are teaching real life skills and applications to carry our students further in their educational careers.
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: Apologizing and comforting the girls means everything, when you show you care about your students they are more likely to mind your opinion on the situation
Rated On: October 21, 2014 4:46 am
Rated By: Thomas Anderson