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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 suggest incoporating a lesson on cultural differences into the classroom. If not in Science, then maybe ask the Social Studies teacher to do so in her classroom. The students could research different ways of representing friendship in other cultures. The teacher could even partner students in pairs and have the pair research a particular country's sign of friendship. The students could present their country to the class by participating in the sign. For example, the students who researched Indonesia, could hold hands during their presentation. This would open the eyes of other students.

I would also suggest talking to Ade and Elsa. I would explain that the other students do not understand their culture and are making judgements based on the American view point. I would explain that it is okay for the students to continue holding hands, but it will probably cause more rumors to spread. This way the students can decide for themselves whether or not to continue holding hands at school.
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
Rated On: February 11, 2013 12:07 am
Rated By: Sara Jernigan