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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 do not think that abandoning the first option is very responsible as a teacher at all. To tell two students to not hold hands because it has started rumors is insensitive to them and it seems to be taking the easy way out for you. First explain to Ade and Elsa that holding hands has a different meaning here than it does in Indonesia. They are in middle school so they should have the cognitive ability to understand that some people are going to spread rumors regardless. Second make a presentation on similar and dissimilar customs between America and Indonesia. This will benefit both Ade and Elsa and the rest of the class. Third allow them to make their own decision. If they want to continue to hold hands as a sign of their friendship; let them do so. Finally as spreading rumors of this kind cannot be tolerated. Make it very clear that there will be unfavorable consequences to any person/persons that starts a rumor as to sexual orientation of another student.
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