By Peter Vogel
Over the past few months I’ve written about the impact of Twitter on my day-to-day work as a teacher. Early on, when my Twitter professional learning network (PLN) was still quite small, I was struck by the tweets of a Catholic school teacher from Omaha, Neb.
Barb Gilman, whom I only knew then by her Twitter persona, BarbInNebraska, was clearly someone who lived her faith proudly and fairly publicly.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview her in her Grade 3 classroom at St. Margaret Mary School, a K-8 school of 570 students, specifically to dig deeper into her use of Twitter as a tool to share her day-to-day life experiences. Her teaching career started in 1985.
BCC: I don’t remember when I first ran across your Twitter stream but I do recall being struck by tweets of a Catholic nature. Did you start out on Twitter in that vein?
BG: It all began when I read an article in our Catholic paper, Catholic Voice, about a brain surgeon, Dr. Paul Camarata, who recorded podcasts about the saints: The SaintCast. I bought an iPod, because that’s how I thought you listened to podcasts! This was January 2007.
Then I discovered the SQPN http://sqpn.com network of Catholic podcasts and started listening to Father Roderick, a techy priest from the Netherlands. He started talking about Twitter in April 2007 and in May 2007 I joined. Because I was following mostly SQPN listeners, I tweeted about Catholic stuff. Then I started noticing educators on Twitter. I don’t think I ever excluded talking about education.
BCC: Your Twitter profile simply says “Catholic School Teacher.” Has it always said this?
BG: I think at first I wrote, “Catholic School Teacher, in Nebraska, of course!” but I changed (it) because I thought it might have had a sarcastic sound to it and I’m not a sarcastic person.
I also wanted to be incognito. I wasn’t sure I was ready, at first, for my students’ parents to follow me. By the way, my background picture on Twitter is a stained glass window from our church, St. Margaret Mary.
BCC: For me and the 2,000 or so people following me, it is your Twitter stream, and your stream pretty much alone, that consistently carries interesting anecdotes about life in a Catholic community, both in your school and your parish. Does posting such anecdotes come naturally?
BG: I guess I’m answering the original Twitter question, which was, “What are you doing?” I didn’t have a blog for a very long time; I just started one in January, so maybe I was summarizing what I would have blogged.
I also think of my Dad, who was a wonderful Irish storyteller. He was a salesman, and every night at dinner he would share the stories of the people he had met during the day. Maybe I’m continuing his storytelling, but 140 characters at a time.
BCC: Has your Twitter stream resulted in contacts with other Catholic school teachers?
BG: Yes! When Twitter started lists, I made a list of Catholic school teachers. (If you can believe it, I didn’t know you were a Catholic school teacher! I need to add you.)
During Catholic schools week this year, @ncara, Nancy Caramanico from Philadelphia, Penn., started a Catholic school teachers wiki: http://catholicschoolconnect.wikispaces.com/.
We Skyped with several classrooms on this list plus a Twitter friend, @Scout7 Patti Harju, who teaches Grade 2 in Grand Rapids, Mich. She also was a big inspiration and encouragement to me to start my first wiki back in March of 2009.
BCC: I specifically recall a posting you made about rosaries. In fact it was that posting that prompted me to contact you. Do you recall that posting? What were the circumstances?
BG: When I first started listening to the podcasts from SQPN I listened to a podcast called The Rosary Army. It was about a husband and wife who felt called to make all-twine knotted rosaries. Their catch phrase is “Make them, pray them, and give them away.”
We always ask our students to bring a rosary to school with them. Since I’m a Grade 3 teacher, frequently my students would bring rosaries they had received on their First Communion day and sometimes they would break! I was determined to learn how to make rosaries, and http://rosaryarmy.org and Greg and Jennifer Willits taught me on-line how to do this.
During the summer of 2007 I made my first batch of rosaries. It was also the summer my mom went through chemo for colon cancer, and while she was getting her treatment, I would knot Rosaries. She loved it and would brag to anyone around that this was her daughter The Catholic School Teacher!
BCC: Others in our PLN might post about various web 2.0 applications or about the need for change in education delivery. You frequently post about visits with elderly relatives or people in need of assistance. To me, such postings provide moments of calm in the breakneck speed of the Internet world. Are you cognizant of such postings having an affect on others?
BG: It is so interesting that you say this. I never really thought of that. Maybe it’s because I originally joined Twitter to share in the SQPN Catholic community, and that’s how I started tweeting. I tweet how I live; I guess I’m an open book.
BCC: Has anyone suggested you are using Twitter to proselytize?
BG: No, I don’t think that I am consciously doing this. It’s just my life. If someone has a question on how to make rosaries I pass on the information. If someone has a serious question on the Catholic faith, I really can’t answer it because of the 140 character space limit.
I do post blogs and podcasts I read and listen to, so maybe some questions can be answered there. I also know I follow people of other faiths, and I don’t think I have offended anyone, and I’m not a person to give a hard sell.
BCC: Do you feel that Catholic school educators on Twitter, me among them, understate, if not completely remove, their connection to the Catholic education system?
BG: I didn’t know you taught at a Catholic School! I know there are some people who don’t list that. Everyone has to do their own thing, but for me, you can’t take the Catholic out of this school teacher! I would have a very hard time teaching at a public school.
Useful site of the week
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