Last spring, I had the opportunity to meet with Bishop Luis Rafel Zarama, 6th Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh. We discussed my appointment as the Interim Principal for the 2019-2020 school year. During the conversation, I asked him what he expected of me as the next principal. His response was succinct: “I want you to lead your way. I believe in you and your love for Cardinal Gibbons.” I am grateful for the clear invitation from Bishop Zarama. It affirmed his love and support of me and for our school.
When I had time to reflect on our conversation, I thought about the message of Jesus Christ from Philippians Chapter 1:5-6 “...because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God has bestowed upon all of us gifts and talents and we are called to love and serve one another using those gifts to the fullest. As I start this journey, I am crafting what kind of leader I want to be and how that will impact the community of Cardinal Gibbons
Much of this journey will involve formation which, as anyone from CGHS knows, is a core component of our mission statement, “...We embrace the mission of Jesus Christ: to form men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community.” How will I be formed? This new role requires my involvement in many new opportunities around campus. I looked at my calendar and found that from now through August 29th, I will present 25 times to various groups; each presentation or speech will need to be unique - I cannot simply write one speech and give it 25 times. For classroom educators, this is a typical month - each day is a different presentation, and for most they give 2-3 different presentations each day. What’s the big deal? The thing is, as a classroom educator, I strive during those first few days to ensure my students get to know me, know that I love and care for them, and that I am dedicated to their learning success. Since I am no longer in a classroom establishing a relationship with students, how do I convey these things to audiences who may not know me as my students always did?
I have always wanted to write or blog about what I do as a classroom educator and Assistant Principal but I’ve never done it. I think about what I would write or say - finding wisdom in the stories that have transformed me as a classroom educator and leader at Cardinal Gibbons; yet I am often in the car on the way to or from work, talking to myself, but when I get to work or home, I don’t commit the words to paper. As an English teacher, I am stuck second guessing myself - my words, my language, my message. Once a writer commits to publishing something - it’s out there and it’s permanent. I always will find the flaws, mistakes, faulty reasoning, missed opportunity, or the dreaded grammar error. Talk about second guessing - I feel handcuffed by my fear of not publishing something perfect.
Yet, now, on my first day as Principal, I am publishing this. Why? Because Bishop Zarama called me to be the best version of me. If I am going to lead my way, I need for the community of Cardinal Gibbons High School to know who I am - how I became a teacher, why I love what I do every day, how I have been blessed to work at this school, why we work at the Best Catholic High School in the nation, what I envision for us moving forward, what I hope and dream for each student, educator and family, and so much more.
Being the best version of ourselves requires us to put our faith in God first and trust he has bestowed gifts and talents that we are called to use so that we can better love one another. The 25 speeches I will give in August are my opportunities to share this vision of our school: to remind us of our purpose to love one another, to remind us to be the best versions of ourselves even when it’s hard or we lack confidence, to engage with others to be formed in faith, service, and leadership. These blog posts will be the teacher in me wanting my students to know me when I may not be able to convey it fully in a 5-10 minute speech.
As the school prepares to open the doors for the Class of 2023 on August 14th, I think about the fears our freshmen have about starting high school or the challenges, or the stress seniors endure preparing college applications, or the challenges our educators face wanting to transform their practice, or the emotions our parents may have as they see these high school years going by so quickly.
How will you be the best you? We are lucky that we get this fresh start each August - it’s another opportunity to set a goal, to reflect on what or who we want to be by May or by the end of a semester. This fresh start isn’t just limited to our students or educators, but everyone in our community. What gift or talent are you not actualizing? What fear is holding you back from trying?
For me, doing this will be to click “Publish.” What is it going to be for you? Nothing is going to really matter until we take that next step until we click that button.
As I prepare to hit publish, my heart beats a little faster, but I am going to try to be the best me right now...and I encourage each of you to discover your best you and commit to…
- Nancy Barkan