Teach Cultural Sensitivity By Celebrating Ramadan

Across the United States, students are largely unaware of Ramadan. It's often lumped in with KwanzaaChinese New Year, and Diwali -- all important holidays in their own rights, but victims of othering by American culture.

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. In Muslim tradition, it commemorates the first revelation of Quran to the prophet Muhammad, his first visit from the Archangel Gabriel. Muslims around the world observe the festival month by fasting from dawn until sunset. Many mosques will host feasts at sunset everyday of the month.

In the Gregorian calendar, Ramada falls between May 26th and June 25th.

It's no debate that Islam is a hot-button issue in contemporary America. Consider this Ramadan an opportunity to teach students about the rich cultural tradition Islam offers. It will, after all, be the largest world religion by 2070, according to the Pew Research Centre.

If your classroom includes Muslim students, allow them to discuss with the class what Ramadan means to them. Giving them space to safely express their religious beliefs will encourage self-assurance as well as respect from their peers.

Also invite them to share their culture past a purely religious context, perhaps throwing a party with traditional food and dance. Islam spans many countries and continents, so investigate your student's specific origin before diving in. In Iraq, for example, date-nut pastries are all the rage. All throughout different cultures, though, you will find halal food, or food that is prepared according to Muslim law. The keys to incorporating Islam tradition into your classroom are sensitivity and curiosity. Instill those same values in your class and you all enjoy a profound cultural learning experience.

Salaam-Alaikum, brothers and sisters. (Now you say “alaikum-salaam”).


Classroom Ideas For Teaching International Customs This Mother's Day

Our mothers (and mother figures) do so much for us. They drag us out of bed in morning for school, they provide us with a shoulder to cry on, they encourage us to grow into the best versions of ourselves possible; all while juggling day-to-day life. The least we can do is take one arbitrary day out of the year to make paper mobiles and homemade greeting cards for them at school, right?

What many don't know is that Mother's Day is not strictly an American holiday, nor is it celebrated the same all across the world. In Brazil, kids put together special performances for their mothers before a community barbecue at a local church or school. In Japan, kids present their mothers with red carnations, symbolic of her gentle strength. In Serbia, mothers are tied up until they acquiesce to give their children gifts and candy (this is real).

This Mother's Day, shake the routine in your classroom and introduce your students to some international customs.

Here's how:

Split your classroom into small groups. To each group, assign a country. It will be upon the groups to research Mother's Day customs from their assigned countries and prepare cultured gifts or tokens of gratitude for their mothers. If a group chooses France, for example, their research will likely lead them to writing poems. Remember to float around the classroom to keep your students on task. If a chosen country has seemingly blasé customs, encourage your students to be creative and create new (inoffensive) customs! If you want to get really creative you could even get all of your students to create their own country and a Mother's Day custom to go along with it. 

Introducing your students to international Mother's Days will contextualize the day for them and lead them to appreciate its significance as more than just another holiday. As a follow-up, you could talk to your students about other foreign analogs to American holidays. Tell them about Children's Day in China. That is sure to get a rise out of them.