Let's delve into the complexity of effects this month will have on your Muslim students.
Ah! Good question. After all, we mentioned taraweeh prayers that will leave worshippers in the mosques to late hours on a nightly basis. Beyond that, we already know that they sleep schedule tendencies of adolescents makes it difficult for them to go to bed early to begin with and the sleep deprivation is an epidemic amongst teens, for whom the typical schedules of high schools do nothing to help. During Ramadan, if they are not eating or drinking during the day one might ask: Wouldn’t it be tempting for them to just stay up the whole night? Well, the answer to this question…umm…YES! Yes it is.
I will say, personally, over the past few years while Ramadan was continually in the summer I noticed more and more kids and whole families being brought to the mosques for the night prayers. Especially around the beginning and the end of Ramadan. This makes sense because, after all, the kids are off school, why not take advantage and get them into the mosque and performing some good worship that their young souls good use. So, as Ramadan gradually recedes into the school year I am expecting that families will be bringing kids to the mosques less and less as they will have to be getting up for school. Still, this does not mean that many of them will not still go, as it may be what they are used to if they have spent the last 6 Ramadans in the summer going to the mosque. Furthermore, if they come from a very religious family it is not at all impossible that the family could consider worship during Ramadan a higher priority than school and even allow the child to miss several days of mornings of school in order to be present in the mosque (remember teachers that understanding different cultural priorities, and how they may differ from your own, is essential to practicing culturally relevant pedagogy). Even further beyond that, if they are not going to the mosque there is still little that is going to stop them from staying up all night binge watching Netflix and devouring Mountain Dew and takhis (not recommend children)!
So students who are fasting are going to be tired for sure. I personally pride myself on maintaining good health, productivity, and a responsible schedule, along with increasing my worship during Ramadan. Nevertheless, I will still have a sleep schedule that adjusts. This summer I would be up until about 1 when prayers would end. I would got to bed at 1:30 and wake up 3:30 to eat suhoor (the pre-fast meal) I would pray the dawn prayer at about 4:15 and then go back to sleep. If I was working I would sleep until about 6:15, if I did not work the next day I might sleep to more like 8:30 or 9. In either case, working or not, on all but very few days I would take an afternoon nap. If I worked I would come lie right on the couch and sleep from about 4-6 or 6:30. On days I do not work I would sleep around 2 or 2:30 maybe until 5 or all the way up till 6:30 sometimes. In the long days of summer fasting (especially in a northern state like Minnesota) some sort of daytime sleeping is more than likely to going to take place, even for adults who have fully developed executive function and committed responsibilities in life. What type of discipline would we expect in this regard with our teenagers? Needless to say, this is a huge cultural collision for our Muslim students in this society. Work and school schedules will adjust and shorten in Muslim countries during the month of Ramadan; that is simply not going to happen here in the United States with few exceptions. The schedule adjusting that takes place is something that occurs community-wide for the students. It is not reasonable for teachers to simply admonish the students to get more sleep and expect that it will have any effect beyond making the student-teacher relationship undertake a more negative tone.
There are and will be no simple solutions to the increase in student sleeping that teachers of Muslim students are inevitably going to see during Ramadan, especially in the coming years when it takes place post daylight savings. So what do you (we) do when it is time to do the chemistry lab and 10 of your 12 Muslim students arrive to class and plop their heads on that raised table and knock off. Ahmed is drooling all over his toes on the periodic table which were not exemplars legibility to begin with. Suleiman has started to get a cold and his snoring is just plain intrusive to instruction. You try poking, prodding, hand clapping, these kids don't move! They're immersed in a lucid dream world of faster'z sleep.
So what do we do? How do we approach and talk about priorities? How can we plan creatively to optimize student success? What should we allow and disallow?