Parents talking to their children’s principals, teachers and classmates in public schools about Ramadan is of immense importance. Not only are more people curious about Islam, many are now willing to clarify their previous misinformation and misunderstandings.
By sharing Ramadan with their school administrators and friends, Muslim children feel less awkward identifying themselves as Muslims, since someone in an authority position has discussed their beliefs. As a result, the children often feel more confident and secure.
As well, Muslim children need to feel the importance of their own celebrations and holidays, especially since we are living in a non-Muslim environment where kids don’t see fancy lights and decorations, commercial hoopla or consistent reminders of the "holiday season" during Ramadan.
And of course, talking to your child’s class about Ramadan is a great way to make Dawa to non-Muslim kids and Muslim kids as well, in particular those who may come from non-practicing Muslim families.
There are a couple of tips to keep in mind when approaching the school or your child’s teachers about presenting, as well as for how you present the information to the child’s class.
Tip #1: Start early
Calling your child’s teacher in the middle of Ramadan asking to do a presentation on the topic is too late.Before Ramadan is the best time to bring up the issue, especially considering Christmas is coming up and holidays are on the minds of most people, teachers and students included. Starting early also helps you think about and gather the right materials to make a good presentation.
Tip #2: Get permission from your child’s teacher
While parents do have a lot of clout in the school system, this does not allow them to show up unexpectedly one day at their son or daughter’s class to do a presentation on Ramadan. Send a letter explaining Ramadan and giving a general indication that you want something done about Ramadan. Then wait for the teacher to call. If he or she does not do so within a week, call them and tell them you are following up on the letter you sent earlier.
Tip #3: Select the right period in which to do the presentation
Does your child study Social Studies? Or does he or she have a period once a week for Moral and Religious education? If so, suggest to the teacher that you would like to do the presentation during these periods. Or, you can of course ask the teacher if he or she has ideas about which time would be best to come in and do the presentation.
Tip #4: Be polite but firm
Speaking nicely to people is part of our Deen, including non-Muslims. We should remember that the purpose of this exercise is to not just educate the students, but the teachers as well. Being polite and courteous will not detract from your desire to present. It will serve to build bridges and communication, and could lead to further opportunities to present on other Islam-related topics and more teacher-parent cooperation in the future, Insha Allah.
Tip #5: Ask the teacher what areas to cover and how long it should be
This helps to adjust your presentation to the age-level of the students, as well as connect it to what they are already learning. This doesn’t mean you can’t bring in other information, but knowing what to cover from the teacher helps you include what information needs to be included. From that point, you can develop more material on these or related topics. Asking how long the presentation should be can also help you decide how much information to include in your presentation.
Tip #6: Read, prepare, read, prepare
Now that you’ve gotten the permission, don’t just sit back and wait for the night before the presentation to put it together.
Remember, if you want to appeal to the students, especially younger ones, you are going to need more than just a talk. Visuals are a great help. You can get a Ramadan banner, balloons, children's books which feature pictures of Muslims fasting, play a song in English about Ramdan (like Dawud Wharnsby Ali's We've Scanned The Sky on the recording Colors of Islam) or show part of a video aimed at children about Ramadan (like Adam’s World’s Ramadan Mubarak video). To get the right material, you will have to find out where to get it from, and ordering it might take a couple of weeks.
Preparing is important, even though you may have fasted all of your life and think you know all about Ramadan. Get a children’s Islamic book and read what it says about Ramadan. Or an article written by a teenager about Ramadan. This will also help you understand what points to emphasize in your presentation.
Reading and researching will also clarify any incorrect cultural norms that may have seeped into the practice of Ramadan which you may not have been aware of. Talk to a knowledgeable Muslim for advice as well.
Tip #7: Talk to your son or daughter about the presentation
Who would know what amuses, entertains and educates the kids in the class better than your son or daughter? Consult them about what to include, what the kids like, what kind of things they are interested in. Not only will this improve your presentation, Insha Allah, but it will also make Ameena or Saeed feel important and more confident as individuals, and as Muslims.
Tip #8: A few days before the presentation
Call the teacher to check the date and time of the schedule. This will serve to remind him or her about your visit and prepare the class accordingly.
Tip #9: Write presentation points on note cards
Reading off papers about Ramadan will not hold the interest of many people, young or old. Instead, writing brief notes on note cards that you can look at so you don’t miss any topic will help you avoid straying from the subject while allowing you to make eye contact with your audience and maintain a conversational style of presentation.
Tip #10: Practice your presentation in front of your son/daughter
Practicing helps you identify what can be improved, changed or omitted. Practicing in front of Ameena will give you the opportunity to present before one of the kids in the class who can really give you the best advice.It will also help you time your presentation, so you can make it shorter or longer.
Tip #11: Dress for success
This does not mean pulling out the Armani suit or the most expensive dress you have. It just means looking as a Muslim should-clean, respectable, professional and Islamically covered. Clothes don’t always "make the man" but they do affect others’ perception of you.
Tip #12: Be early
Teachers and students are busy people. They have a certain curriculum to cover. The fact that they’ve squeezed in your presentation is somewhat of a privilege. Don’t take advantage of this by wasting their time by coming late. And anyways, Muslims should be on time as a principle. Coming early can also help you set up audio visual material, if you have any.
Tip #13: Make Dua...
Before your presentation, ask Allah to help you convey this message sincerely, properly and clearly. And say Bismillah.
Tip #14: Speak calmly and clearly
It’s important not to race through the presentation, nor to talk too slowly. A clear, conversational style, but emphasis on the major points or terms you want the students to understand can help convey the message properly.
Tip #15: When answering questions
If you don’t know something, say so. Then check up on it and get back to the teacher. Ask him or her to convey the response.
Tip #16: Thank Allah...
for this opportunity He blessed you with and your ability to go through with it.
Tip #17: Send a thank you note to the teacher and class...
thanking them for their time and attention, as well as their cooperation.
Photo Attribution - Evelyn Simak - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Union_House_-_the_school_room_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1309579.jpg