As I work through my third-grade religion curriculum each year, I always try to add something extra to help make class memorable for my students. For the past two years, during Vocation Awareness Week, I’ve added a Skype session to our class time. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has chosen the first full week of November as Vocation Awareness Week. This year it falls on November 2–8. I found that introducing my students to others living a religious vocation makes a fun and lasting impression on my students.
Two years ago we were able to Skype with Fr. Andy Roza. He is a graduate of the school where I teach, and he currently teaches religion at Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus, Nebraska. My goal was to introduce Fr. Roza to my students and allow them the opportunity to ask him any questions they had about the life of a priest. The questions we asked him varied from “What was your favorite memory when you were a student at our school?” to “Do you miss not having a wife and children?”
I believe the most important takeaway my students had was his closing words. He reminded my students that God has a plan for them, that he made them, and that they are good. I’m sure my students have heard this many times from me, other teachers, and their parents, but to hear it from a priest who went to their school must have been especially meaningful.
This past January we Skyped with a seminarian named Andy Boyd. I’m involved in the Institute for Priestly Formations, which is held every summer at Creighton University. Each summer, Creighton is filled with seminarians from across the country who learn and pray together. Andy and I worked together on a computer project and became friends. When it was time for Vocation Awareness Week, I knew we would Skype with him at his seminary in Pennsylvania.
The children enjoyed asking him questions and hearing his responses. We asked him what he enjoys doing in his free time. His response caused my class to cheer: He plays Minecraft! His answer showed them that having a priestly vocation doesn’t prevent you from having fun.
Andy also ended his call with the same message as Fr. Roza’s. He reminded them to never give up on learning what their vocation is and that God has a special call just for them.
My students write the questions beforehand and I always e-mail them ahead of time to my Skype participants. They take notes as we listen to the answers during the call, and they share the notes with their families. By sharing their notes with their parents, the children begin a conversation about vocations at home.
The final part of the call is the “thank-you” note. I always have my students send cards thanking the participants for taking time out of their day to Skype with us. When Andy got our cards, he took a picture of them and sent it out on Instagram, which also spreads the message of vocations!
When I learned that Andy called them “Vocation Encouragement Cards,” I realized that our activity was a positive experience on both sides.
What a great activity.
Thanks for reading and the comment, Dave!
This is great, Barb! I’ve always wanted to do a Skype session in RE but never quite got around to it. Wonderful idea for Vocations awareness. I can see it also for raising Missions awareness and social justice awareness…lots of interesting folks around the world we could Skype with. Likewise, just Skyping with another catechist and his/her class from a different part of the world could really help students get a sense of how catholic (universal) the Catholic Church really is!
Other ideas for Skyping?
Thanks, Joe for the comment! The Sky is the limit when thinking about using Skype or Google Hangouts in your classroom. People are so generous with sharing their story. It just takes a little extra time to arrange the visit and email the questions ahead of time, but the rewards are so worth it.
Concerning some other ideas, my friend, Marcie Hebert, who teaching near New Orleans, contacted Greg Willits for a Google a Hangout. He talked to her junior high students on the New Evangelization. She used Google Hangouts and with Greg’s permission, she recorded the conversation and then posted it to YouTube for others to watch.
I was lucky enough to Skype with Barb’s class this year for one of their math classes. It was a great experience for me too. We combined space exploration, science, math and virtual baked goods all in one short session. Barb said they had so much fun they didn’t realize they were learning.
Steve, that’s the best kind of learning!
Barb, you are such a great voice for how teachers can use technology as part of education especially faith formation.
Skype or Google Hangouts is a great way to connect students to an expert in any field. Simply asking has allowed my students to hang out live with experts in different fields. Hangouts on air allows the conversation to be recorded and kept.
We are going to be video blogging this year with students in Hong Kong. I am sure there will be a point where they can talk about religion. We have the ability to open the world up to our students. I am so excited to see what this project will bring.
Marcie, that sounds very exciting. Please DO let us know how it goes…we’d love to feature your experience here on Catechist’s Journey!
It is really exciting to know that teachers are using the modern technology to nurture the faith of the younger generation…great job. May the Almighty continue to shower His blessings upon you to lead and guide the younger generation to the world of faith