Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and for people who are Muslim, it is a time of prayer, kindness, charity, and forgiveness. For many Muslims, fasting from dawn to sunset is also an important part of Ramadan.
It is essential that we show empathy and support for our students and colleagues who take on the challenge of fasting during the month of Ramadan. We want our schools and classrooms to be safe spaces for all.
Here are a few things that, as teachers, we might consider:
Not all children who are Muslim will fast
Some children may fast during the daylight hours, while others will fast for only a portion of the day, and many children do not fast at all. Choices about how and when to fast are made by individuals and families based on many factors, including age and health. It is important not to make assumptions but rather respect the decisions of individual students and families.
People who are Muslim do not expect non-Muslims to fast and many of our Muslim students will prefer to follow the regular nutrition break routine in their classrooms and then outside for recess. However, lunchtime can be one of the more difficult parts of the day for those who are fasting. Providing the option of an alternative space, with books, iPads, and Chromebooks, may help some fasting students pass the time more easily.
It goes without saying that strenuous physical activity will be more difficult for those that are not eating and drinking during the day. We should keep this in mind when planning lessons for Phys. Ed., Dance, etc. Offering an alternative activity that has fewer physical demands is appropriate. Keep in mind that students might feel comfortable participating in an activity one day but need a different plan the next class, depending on how they are feeling.
After School Events and Fast Breaking
Fast breaking happens each evening at sundown. It is an important time for families to share a meal together. Ending school events, such as concerts or graduation ceremonies, early in the evening so that families can get home in time for fast breaking will better allow Muslim families to attend. Families also wake up very early in the morning to eat before the sun rises. If our students seem more tired than usual, this may be why.
Learning more about Ramadan
We value diversity in our classrooms and at our worksites. Ramadan provides another opportunity for us to share about our differences and makes connections between our shared values. When doing so however, we should be careful that we are not always placing the responsibility to be educators on the members of minority groups. While many of our Muslim students are happy to share about their experiences, being required to do so over and over again can become an undesired burden. As teachers, we can help by educating ourselves, teaching about what we know, and then leaving space for others to share, if they choose.