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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 believe you should combine both options for the best result. Address the issue with the class though a minilesson on cultural studies. Explain that in other cultures some customs are different and mean different things. Discuss different cultures that would be considered “odd” to us, but are “normal” to other people. Reiterate that making fun of people, or starting rumors about them because they may have a different background, is insensitive and will not be tolerated. Explain to the two girls why people are inferring that they are together, and that in the American culture that is how two girls holding hands are generally perceived. Tell them that they have to make the decision to ignore the comments of others and continue holding hands in order to be true to their culture, or not hold hands anymore and conform to the stereotypes of our culture.
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 the idea of turning this into a mini lesson so everyone can learn from it.
Rated On: October 17, 2014 4:49 pm
Rated By: Sanubu