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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!)
Since the students asked you to explain what was going on I feel you have an obligation to explain the differences in cultural norms to them in a sensitive way. When I was young I had a good friend from Honduras. She spoke excellent English but sometimes there would be a cultural reference, joke or behavior that she just didnít understand and she would ask for someone to explain it to her. I was often the only person who would completely explain the joke or behavior fully and without speaking to her as if she was foolish for not understanding it. That honesty was a source of connection between us. I believe honesty can also build a bridge of trust between student and teacher although the way we explain things would be different due to the difference in the nature of the relationship. I would not tell them how to behave I would simply explain why the American children are behaving the way they are.
I would also have a talk with the American students and remind them to treat one another with respect. There are always differences in a classroom. Most students I have met understand that it is wrong to treat someone unkindly just because they look different. Often when I have had issues of misunderstanding like this I have been able to ask my class if it is alright to be mean to someone because they are a different color. Generally I get a chorus of ďnoĒ as a response. If I then ask them if it alright to make fun of someone because they are from somewhere else in the work they will also respond no. I know this sounds simple and idealistic but I do teach high school and this has actually worked for a little while. I have traveled a bit to other countries so usually I can come up with an example that relates but is different from the exact situation. This allows me to take a little bit of time with students to address issues that are preventing the class from being the community I believe it has to be in order for everyone to feel safe.
 
     
     
  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: If I were in this situation, I would do the same thing.
Rated On: October 17, 2014 4:16 pm
Rated By: TuBuJy
 
     
     
  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: It is important for teachers to understand their obligations when students come to them for answers.
Rated On: October 18, 2014 7:15 pm
Rated By: Amanda Meredith