Ramadan is a month in which most Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This includes refraining from food and drink, even water. All Muslims who reached the age of puberty are required to fast, exceptions to this are those who are sick, traveling, or women who are pregnant, nursing, or menstruating. Although children are not required to fast, many choose to fast anyway. Ramadan has a strong communal element to it where families break their fast together every evening. It is almost like having thanksgiving every day for an entire month. While fasting is certainly a great act of worship that has many benefits, it does have its challenges. In this article, we will highlight some ways teachers can help accommodate their Muslim students while they may be fasting.
Talking to your student, privately, or the class in general about Ramadan is a great start and would mean a lot to the students. Instead of singling out a particular student or students and asking them if they plan on fasting, you can make a general announcement to the class that Ramadan is here, and if any of them plan on fasting and need any accommodations that they can reach out to you. Some Muslim students might have parents who are immigrants and cannot speak English well, or the parents may be intimidated to talk to the teacher. A simple email reaching out to the parents will mean a lot.
2. Do not single them out
Muslims are a minority in the United States. Some states have larger Muslim populations than others and therefore in some cases, a student may be the only Muslim in the class. Do not ask that student to speak about their fasting in front of the entire class without discussing it with them first. The student might not want to be made to feel different than others out of fear of bullying, or they may simply be uncomfortable sharing their faith with others.
3. Avoid food events
It would be best during Ramadan to not have any event that has food. Having an ice cream or pizza party would very likely make the student feel left out. If you give wrapped candy as a reward for certain class activities, you can still give it to the Muslim student who will likely take it home and enjoy it later in the day.
4. Offer them a different space during lunchtime
Lunchtime is perhaps the most challenging time of the day for Muslim students. It is not necessarily challenging because they are hungry, but watching other students eat and drink would certainly not be easy. It would also place them in a position where other students constantly ask them why they aren’t eating or drinking. It would be best to accommodate the student by providing them the option of staying in a different space such as the library or classroom. Going to the nurse’s office would not be the best idea, but a place where they can feel comfortable and keep themselves occupied.
While some people can partake in physical activity while they are fasting, some might be too tired. Children especially may want to play a fun sport during gym. However, it would be helpful if students are told that they have the option of sitting out or taking it easy during gym class. They should not be required to partake in excessive physical activity like running laps.
6. Decorate your class/crafts
Muslim students often feel left out when it is Christmas or easter and the class is decorated for a holiday they do not celebrate. Consider decorating your class for Ramadan. This can be decoration you create or class crafts of lanterns or the crescent moon which indicates the beginning and end of the month of Ramadan. The decoration would make the classroom more inclusive and it would certainly mean a lot to the Muslim students.
7. The timing of tests/exams
Muslim students can take tests and exams in Ramadan, however, it should be kept in mind that these are best administered earlier in the day when students might have more energy. By the end of the day, students are usually more drained due to the lack of food and drink.
At the end of the month, there is a major holiday called Eid al-Fitr. This holiday is a day when most Muslim students are going to take off. It would be best to not schedule any major exams on that day so students do not have to miss out on too much work, or worse feel obliged to come to school on a major religious holiday. Wishing your student an “Eid Mubarak” [pronounced eeed moo baarak] would also mean a lot to them. The date for eid this year will be May 2nd, but a simple google search will also help you find the dates. Eid usually begins at the night (think Christmas eve) followed by the actual day of Eid. Some Muslims celebrate eid on slightly different days because some determine the day of eid based on astronomical calculations of the moon which can be determined years in advance while other Muslims consider it necessary to physically see the new moon. This would mean that they will not know the exact day of eid until the day before.
Ultimately, having a more inclusive class will allow students to flourish and feel more welcome. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 877-WhyIslam, you deserve to know!