Irene Cheung, Principal of Colégio Mateus Ricci, a Catholic school in Macau, talks about finding your path and overcoming doubt by listening to encouragement.Download Podcast
Irene Cheung, Principal, Colégio Mateus Ricci
"Father Matteo Ricci said, 'A friend is half of myself'. We would like to carry on this tradition in our school"
My guest on this podcast is Irene Cheung, the principal of Colégio Mateus Ricci (Ricci College), a Catholic school in Macau. It covers kindergarten through to secondary school and has around 2000 students.
Irene started at Colégio Ricci twenty years ago as an English teacher. Today, she oversees the day-to-day activities of the whole school and makes sure everything runs smoothly. Not only that, but as the head of a religious school, she also inspires students to live out the values of the school's role models.
How do you find your path in life?
It's an all-too-common experience: an idealistic young student goes to college, learns more about their chosen profession - and gradually becomes disillusioned when it turns out that their ideals, and their idea of what that profession was, come into conflict with the realities of it.
The question is, what do you do then? Do you water down your ideals, and try to find a way to reconcile the job you trained for and your ethical concerns? Or do you change your plans?
Irene Cheung found herself in exactly that situation. But the experience of a year abroad after graduation opened her to other perspectives. And when a friend wrote to her about a job as an English teacher, she took the chance.
Going up through the ranks
Listen to Irene as she describes the first opportunity she was given at Ricci College - to teach a subject she hadn't studied in college - and how she trusted the encouragement of her colleagues to overcome her doubts.
That's a lesson to keep in mind: the voice of our inner harsh critic isn't the only voice guiding us and advising us. There are much wiser and much kinder voices out there, and it's up to us to listen to them and trust them.
"I had no confidence"
Then three years ago, the school board sent out an open invitation to apply to the post of principal. Again, Irene didn't think she could do it, but she trusted the encouragements of the then-principal and of her colleagues. She applied and, after a very demanding interview process (in three languages!), she was chosen as the new principal.
Irene's path is a reminder to choose to trust those who trust you to succeed. Her philosophy and approach as principal of Ricci College is deeply inspiring - listen to the podcast to learn how she was inspired by Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci, after whom the school is named.
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More about Father Mallin, who passed away recently but was for many years an important influence at Colégio Ricci.
The college published an article about my visit (in Chinese)
Irene's quote is taken from Father Matteo Ricci's treatise on friendship, the You Lun.
Love and friendship are no empty words at Colégio Ricci - Irene presenting gifts from the school and students on my last visit