Head of School's Message: September 4

“Nervcited” was how one fourth grade parent described her daughter on the first morning of the school year. By Friday afternoon, following two full days of transition, much of the initial anxiety and euphoria had worn off and weary Chandler students were ready for Labor Day weekend. There were no tears in kindergarten, not a drop – no students or parents broke down in the courtyard. 
The Class of 2027 are a stoic, resolute group. Good work, parents!
 
With routines and structures established, the academic work begins this week for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Our seventh and eighth grade students will be off campus enjoying their outdoor education trips. Seventh grade will be canoeing on the Colorado River, and the eighth grade will be backpacking in the Sierras.
 
On Thursday, I stopped by the Lower School library. Lower School librarian Mrs. Stacey May was reading The Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein to Mrs. Kerrie Barbato’s kindergarten class. The students were remarkably attentive as Stacey read and turned the pages. Occasionally she would turn back a page to clarify what was happening in the story or to ask a question. The printed, physical book plays an important role in Chandler’s academic program at all grade levels.
 
Maryanne Wolf is the Director of the Center for Dyslexia and Diverse Learners at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education. In an article in The Guardian on August 25, ‘Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound,’ she wrote that unlike vision and language, the reading circuit in the brain needs an environment to develop. She worries that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in high school and college students. She cited a Norwegian study in which half a class read a story on a Kindle and the other half read it in a paperback. Results indicated that students who read in print were superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers, particularly in their ability to sequence detail and reconstruct the plot in chronological order.
 
The paperback readers could flip back to check details on pages they had already read. She calls this the “technology of recurrence.” It’s what Stacey May was doing with the kindergarten students when she flipped back to a page in the story she was reading. When young people read on a screen, they are discouraged from looking back and their reading comprehension is impacted.
 
Maryanne Wolf worries that critical analysis, empathy and other deep reading processes could become unintended collateral damage of our digital culture. She believes we need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a bi-literate brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums. She writes, “A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society.”
 
 
As the kindergartners listened intently to the ‘Interrupting Chicken’ and responded to Stacey May’s probing questions, they were experiencing an environment where their young brains, their intellects and their characters are taking shape with the help of books that require their undivided attention. They responded magnificently.
 
I will be out of the office until Tuesday, September 11 as I will be accompanying the eighth grade students and faculty on their backpacking trip to the Sierras.
 
Hong Kong Exchange for Grades 5 – 8
 
Since the end of the last school year we have made changes in the dates of the Hong Kong exchange program. Rather than visiting during the summer of 2019, students from Hong Kong will be here during the spring when Chandler is in session. Chandler students will be visiting Hong Kong from Thursday, March 28 to Sunday, April 7. Students from Hong Kong will be visiting Chandler from April 20 to April 29.
 
The goal of the program is to promote cross cultural understanding through a ten-day immersive school visit and home stay. During the exchange, students participate in school and family life. Students are accompanied by faculty and staff chaperones from their respective schools and stay with host families.
 
We will be working with Diocesan Boys School and Diocesan Girls School in Hong Kong. This will be the third year of the exchange program with DBS and the second year with DGS. Two years ago we took twelve Chandler students to Hong Kong, six boys and six girls. We are planning to take no more than eight boys and eight girls in 2019.
 
Because the program involves a home stay, we ask that if you send your son or daughter to Hong Kong you will agree to host a student in April. Chandler students will be accompanied to Hong Kong by Chandler's Director of Technology Trevor Spicer, Human Resource Director Katherine Anastasia and a faculty member.
 
The program fee of $2,500 includes the round trip flight to Hong Kong.
 
If you have any interest in having your son or daughter participate in the exchange, please let me know. I will host an informational evening at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 20 in the Lower School library.
 
 
Most sincerely,
John Finch
Head of School
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