The Luxury of Uninterrupted Time
Children Are Empowered to Acquire Executive Function Skills and “Go Deep” in Learning
This luxury of uninterrupted time to explore is what authentic Montessori offers—and it’s a main reason why children love coming to school at LePort!
Take an art project. In most preschools, there’s a set art time. The teacher prepares an art activity, and the children come together as a group. After some demonstrations by the teacher, all the children do their own art. Maybe 30-45 minutes later, it’s time to move on to the next activity—and the teacher cleans up, while the children may head outside to play.
In Montessori, in contrast, art is something that is always available to each child. When a Montessori child decides she wants to paint, she sets up her easel with paper, paints, water and brushes. She dons the apron, and goes to work. She keeps at it until she thinks she is done, then carefully places her painting on the drying rack, puts paints away, cleans brushes and apron, and scrubs the easel with a little sponge dipped into a bucket, ensuring that the art activity is ready to use for the next child.
What happens here? Why is this child-initiated, self-directed approach better than the adult-led, group approach? Here’s why:
- Autonomy fosters engagement, and ignites the spark within. Research shows that all humans—adult and children alike—learn best and work best when they have autonomy. This is especially important for children: too many youngsters today grow up without knowing who they are, and what they want to do with their lives. Just ask any college professor! By giving young children meaningful, frequent choices (instead of having them follow adult directions all the time), we help them discover who they are, what the like, and pave the way for purposeful, joyful living, rather than duty-bound learning.
- Freedom and responsibility encourage the development of critical executive function skills. ADHD is the curse of today’s children: 12% of boys are diagnosed at some time between the ages of three and seventeen. Middle school teachers note that many children can’t persist in difficult tasks for extended periods. College students drift, unable to set goals and accomplish them. Researchers assert that many of these challenges can be traced to poorly developed executive functions skills—such as the ability to self-regulate, to control impulses, to acquire a strong working memory, and to practice cognitive flexibility. Montessori is the perfect environment for children to practice these essential skills daily! An infant is allowed to persist in pulling up on a bar as long as she wants—instead of being interrupted to join a group snack time. A toddler would love to have the material another child has—but learns to wait for his turn, standing patiently with hands-behind-back, while observing, instead of impulsively snatching the material away, or demanding that the other child “share.” A preschooler comes to school wanting to build the pink tower—but a friend is using it, and she needs to move on to her second choice.
- Real learning and doing things yourself is fun—but it takes time and doesn’t conform to adult-imposed schedules. Independence and deep engagement takes time, and can’t be fit into 30-minute increments of adult-led group activities. (Just imagine 20 preschoolers setting up, drawing and taking down easel art, all at the same time, in a 45 or 50 minute art class: it won’t be pretty!) Children in our Montessori programs just love having the time to do things for themselves, to get into a flow state, to do their thing at their own pace, on their terms. Just come and observe a class and see for yourself!
Scientifically-Designed Montessori Learning Materials
The Montessori Materials Allow Us to “Follow The Child” and at the Same Time to Deliver a Structured, Sequential, Challenging Curriculum
If you had to choose,
which would you choose for your child:
Often that’s the choice parents face,
but what if there was another option?
Montessori education is the third way that combines joyful, autonomous learning, with a structured, sequential, challenging curriculum. The Montessori materials, along with careful guidance by great teachers, are the keys that make this possible.
Source: Dr. Steven Hughes, Igniting the Flame Within
In Montessori, learning happens largely between the children and the materials. The materials embody the lessons, and allow children to acquire knowledge directly by working with them.
How does that work?
Here’s a math example. Other areas of the curriculum use similar principles!
Highly-Trained, Nurturing Montessori Teachers
Our Teachers Are Masters at Motivating and Individualizing as they Guide and Nurture Students
The people your child interacts with daily during her early years have a tremendous influence on who she will become. As Peg Tyre, author of the book The Good School, puts it:
Early childhood workers vary widely in their qualifications. In most states, the legal requirements are minimal: In California, for example, 12 Early Childhood Units from a community college are all that’s needed to teach preschool. Along with minimal qualifications often comes low pay and poor working conditions, which lead to a detrimentally high staff turnover at many childcare centers.
Montessori teachers generally have at least some additional training. But even within Montessori, training can vary significantly. As Montessori is not a copyrighted term, anyone can offer “Montessori teacher training”—whether or not they actually know anything about Montessori!
That’s why at LePort, we are very selective on who we hire. We actively recruit the best candidates from the pool of Montessori teachers, and most of our teachers hold an AMI Montessori credential. AMI stands for the Association Montessori International, the original Montessori organization founded in 1929 by Dr. Montessori herself. This training sets the standard in Montessori training, and our classrooms largely operate along AMI principles. When we on occasion hire teachers with a training other than AMI, we ensure that their qualifications live up to this standard:
- A graduate-level course. Teacher candidates at a good Montessori training program like AMI generally need a Bachelor’s degree to be admitted to the program—making it more likely they have the general intelligence that is needed to be a strong teacher.
- An in-person, year-long training program. While some Montessori programs are delivered exclusively online, and others are “quickie” 10-week summer courses, the AMI training and other high-quality programs are the equivalent of a full academic year program. Students attend classes in person, and interact with other students, with experienced trainers, with the materials, and with children.
- An in-depth exploration of early childhood development and the full range of Montessori materials. An good Montessori training course doesn’t just provide a quick overview of Montessori. Instead, it is, as many AMI-trained teachers will confirm, “one of the most challenging years in my life.” Lectures cover a wide range of topics on early childhood development, including a deep-dive into the principles behind Montessori, as well as the specific use and lessons of every material in a Montessori classroom. Candidates don’t have textbooks to study from; instead, they make their own “albums” by taking lectures notes and then describing, in their own words, with their own, often hand-drawn, illustrations, the use and lessons for every single material.
- Experienced master teachers as trainers. Becoming an good Montessori trainer is difficult. For example, candidates for the AMI “training of trainers” program must hold an AMI Montessori credential and have at least five years of Montessori teaching experience in an authentic Montessori setting. They then “apprentice” as a course assistant, before graduating to become a certified AMI trainer.
- External written and oral exams to graduate. While many training programs give final exams in-house, AMI teacher candidates are examined by an outside trainers. This helps ensure quality, and makes it all but impossible for training centers to graduate teachers who have not mastered the skills required to become excellent teachers.
AMI training, to us, guarantees that a teacher has the intelligence and knowledge base to become a great teacher. We look for even more, though, when we interview candidates: We want our teachers to be happy, motivated people with great interpersonal skills and a willingness to work hard and grow.
This is not to say that there aren’t other outstanding Montessori teachers, and on occasion, we will hire teachers with American Montessori Society (AMS) or other credentials from good training programs, who bring a high level of skill or experience. This is more common when we integrate existing Montessori schools into our network, usually when a long-term owner retires and we step in to continue their legacy of delivering a good Montessori education. When that happens, our primary focus remains unchanged: to provide the most authentic Montessori experience to each of our students. In those instances, we take great care to get to know the current staff and culture of a school to identify areas where it excels, as well as instances where strong academic support and additional professional development are needed to help teachers deliver a Montessori experience that lives up to our high standards. In some cases, this can result in staffing changes, and we work hard to anticipate those changes with minimal disruption to the student’s experience.
As part of our commitment to developing our staff, we regularly sponsor our best assistant teachers for their AMI Montessori training, paying for their training through a refundable loan. To make it possible for them to do the training while working with our students, we have partnered with AMI training centers to create training programs with afternoon/evening and weekend schedules. The goal is to promote these newly-trained teachers as soon as possible to head teachers; usually, this happens once they complete their training, but sometimes, we will offer assistant teachers a head teacher position concurrent to completing their AMI training. In those cases, we ensure that our new Montessori teachers are well-supported by our regional and academic teams, so they deliver an authentic Montessori experience to the children and parents they serve from the beginning of their tenure as head teachers.
Teachers we hire right out of AMI training who haven’t worked as assistants at LePort often start out as “junior teachers,” and complete a six- to twelve-month paid “apprenticeship” under one of our “master teachers.” That’s how they learn the art of teaching, from classroom management to communications with parents.
We also support all of our teachers–floaters, assistant teachers and head teachers–with ongoing training opportunities, from bringing outstanding AMI-trained experts to our schools, to offering ongoing in-classroom coaching from our Montessori-trained, experienced Heads of Schools and our Montessori academics support team.
Because we hire highly-qualified teachers, and select them for “culture fit,” because we offer a great working environment, career growth opportunities, and ongoing support, because we pay well and offer a benefits package including paid time off and health insurance, we are able to attract great people to work with the children in our schools, and to help them make teaching into a long-term career.
Curious? Invest two hours, and change your child’s life.
Complete the contact form below, and we’ll reach out to you to schedule your individual tour. We’ll also keep you in the loop about upcoming events, and send you a few short newsletters with more information about how specifically Montessori can make a difference in your child’s life—from easing separation anxiety to helping with toilet learning, from developing independence to fostering literacy.