Respecting Religious Beliefs in the Classroom
Understanding how students celebrate religious beliefs is a foundation for respect and cultural competency. Are they eating special food? Will they be missing class? The upcoming month is full with Ramadan, Passover, and Lent – let’s take a deep dive into each celebration!
Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Ramadan 2023 starts on the evening of March 22nd and ends the evening of April 21st.
Depending on their age, Muslim students may be fasting from sunrise to sunset. This includes food, liquid, and even medicine. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Use sensitivity around food in case some of your students are fasting and can’t participate. While some students won’t mind, others may appreciate an alternative place to spend time during lunch. (If you were hungry, would you want to spend lunch watching all your friends eat?)
- Use caution during intense physical activity. Sports and recess activities may be dangerous for students who are fasting on a long Spring day.
- Offer time for prayer and reflection. Ramadan is a time for introspection and prayer. Students who may not normally pray during the school day may appreciate additional time during Ramadan.
Passover, also called Pesach, is one of the most important and widely celebrated Jewish holiday. While the exact dates change every year, Passover is always celebrated in the Spring. Passover 2023 starts on the evening of April 5th and ends the evening of April 13th.
Passover is a very family-oriented holiday where Jews abstain from eating leavened bread and eat special foods, like matza. Passover starts with two seders – large family meals – and continues throughout the week with celebrations. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be understanding of absences. Jewish students may be absent from school for some or all of Passover. Instead of punishing them, work with them and their parents so they can stay caught up with school work while they celebrate.
- Use sensitivity around food. Depending on their level of observance, students might be abstaining from a lot more than just bread. For example, be sensitive of birthday cakes or any other food related activities.
- Offer time for prayer and reflection. Passover is a holiday that includes longer prayers. Students who may not normally pray during the school day may appreciate additional time during Passover.
Lent is a period of time where many Christians demonstrate their love and dedication to God by giving something up that they normally enjoy. Lent 2023 begins on February 22nd and ends on April 6th. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Use sensitivity around food and other activities. Some Christian children may be encouraged to sacrifice something they normally enjoy during Lent. This may be chocolate, sports, or TV. Be understanding if a student tells you that they can’t participate in an activity because of their Lent sacrifice.
- Offer time for prayer and reflection. Lent is a period of time for introspection and prayer. Students may require time during the school day to pray or attend special events at their church.
Remember, not all Muslim, Jewish, and Christian students will be celebrating holidays in April or their celebrations may differ depending on their family’s level of observance. Be respectful of any accommodations without making assumptions. Wishing you lots of luck during this very busy month!
Learn more cultural competency strategies with online PD from Professional Learning Board.
About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through ProfessionalLearningBoard.com, RenewaTeachingLicense.com, and ConnectedPD.com. Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD.
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