On June 26th, 28 people from all over the United States came to the village of Fanjeaux, France, to spend 10 days together exploring faith. What drew us to this beautiful and remote region of Southwestern France was the Dominican Spirituality Pilgrimage: “Deepening the Dominican Spirit.” Organized by the Sisters of St. Dominic and Fenwick President Father Richard Peddicord, O.P., this trip traces the footsteps of St. Dominic. He began his mission in the 13th century in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in Fanjeaux.
We stayed in the convent of Ste. Dominique. Our days were comprised of day trips, talks on Dominican life and spirituality, mass, reflection, free time and daily communal meals of delicious French food. The places we visited included:
Toulouse, the city where Dominic gathered the first friars.
Carcassonne, the walled medieval city where Dominic preached.
Montsegur, the mountain refuge of the Cathars.
Prouilhe, the first convent founded by St. Dominic in 1206 and still running today.
Sorèze, the village where Father Lacordaire established a Dominican school.
Fr. Peddicord led the talks, including “Truth as a Motto of the Dominican Order,” “Art as Preaching” and “The Life of St. Dominic.” We learned that Dominic was a holistic thinker who valued the quest for truth and believed in contemplation, prayer and sharing one’s knowledge. I was impressed by his faith, his commitment to truth and his compassion for all people. Dominic’s vision for spreading the gospel led to the creation of the Order of Friars in 1216.
Fun fact: Do you know the difference between a friar and a monk? A friar goes into the world and shares his faith through preaching and good works, while a monk is cloistered.
And yet another differentiator that makes Fenwick special is that six administrators also teach courses to students.
This last point of differentiation is akin to the difference at universities and colleges where actual professors teach under-graduate classes (as opposed to those taught by teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school). The six Fenwick administrators in the classroom are (from left in the above photo):
Director of Scheduling & Student Data Mickey Collins ’03 – Accelerated Anatomy
Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton – Orchestra Director
Principal Peter Groom – Foreign Policy (History)
President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., PhD – Dominican Spirituality (Theology)
Assistant Principal Eleanor Comiskey ’06 – Algebra
Student Services/Enrollment Director James Quaid, PhD – Advanced Placement U.S. History
Every weekday afternoon for 45 minutes, you won’t find Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. in his office or on the phone. Instead, he’s in a classroom teaching Theology (Dominican Spiritualty) to senior students. Principal Peter Groom, who teaches History (Foreign Policy), has said that teaching and interacting with students in the classroom is the highlight of his work day. What is it that they enjoy about the teaching portion of their day-to-day responsibilities?
“Teaching is a way for me to be connected to the students on a personal level,” explains alumnus Michael “Mickey” Collins ’03, who teaches a science course in Accelerated Anatomy when he’s not overseeing the scheduling and data of Fenwick students. “I spend most of my time seeing names, test scores, course requests and schedules of students, but not as much face-to-face [time] with those students,” Mr. Collins adds.
“I think the fact that our administrators still teach keeps them more connected than most administrators at other schools.” – Assistant Principal/Orchestra Director Laura Pendleton
Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton notes, “The unique thing about being an education administrator is that none of us chose this profession. We all chose to be teachers first and then ended up in administration for a variety of reasons and circumstances. To be able to work in administration and continue to teach, which was my first passion, is a gift,” says Ms. Pendleton, who also is Fenwick’s Orchestra Director. “It takes you back to your early career, and I enjoy having the time working with the students vs. the adults. They keep you close to the pulse of the school.”
Why They Teach
“I think the fact that our administrators still teach keeps them more connected than most administrators at other schools,” Pendleton continues. “Also, most days teaching my class is a stress reliever!
“It is important for school leaders to stay connected with the student body because,” she says, “first and foremost, we are here for them. I can imagine that if you are not in front of students every day you might start to get a little disconnected. Teaching my own class is very beneficial for me when supervising teachers. Being in their classroom becomes more than just an isolated event and more of a collaboration: I’m also in a classroom with these students every day; I have the same issues. It gives us a very up-to-date understanding of what our teachers are going through. We have a unique student body here at Fenwick, and it’s important to know their needs specifically.”
Dr. James Quaid, former Fenwick Principal and current Director of Student Services & Enrollment, returned to Fenwick this school year. “I began my career as a teacher and always loved working with students as a teacher, coach and/or moderator,” Dr. Quaid shares. “Administrative work involves planning and finding ways to help students, teachers and parents/guardians. It also involves a lot of reaction to issues in which people are frustrated or upset. When I am in a classroom, I get to work in a very positive environment and enjoy watching students learn and grow. If you plan, communicate and react properly, there really are not that many negative things that happen. For one period each day I can just enjoy the experience.”