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“The Red Coats Are Coming”: Visualizing and Feeling in Teaching

At LePort, we are always looking to improve ourselves as educators. And that means documenting and learning from each other’s ideas about great teaching practices. Over the years we’ve come to see that a major facet of great teachers is their ability to cultivate strong imaginations in their students and elicit even stronger emotions. Below is an internal paper written for our teachers on a related pedagogical tactic we employ daily. It is called visualization, and it is just one element of our experiential approach to education.

montessori

Internal Paper: Experiential Teaching

Everybody has heard the line "The Red Coats are coming", usually at some point in elementary school. But how many of us can see and feel it? How many have a rich visual scene in their heads, with a real emotional connection to go with it?

Too often in school all we hear is words. Disconnected, uninteresting, non-visualized words. At LePort we know that words matter, and we revere them, because they are the means by which we grasp and communicate knowledge. But we also know that for words to actually represent knowledge students must understand them.

montessori

An important method by which we ensure that words are understood, that our students connect what we’re talking about with their own personal context, is visualization – the eliciting of images in a individual’s mind. This tactic allows students to see what we’re teaching and to feel the emotional connection that comes only from experiential learning, ultimately making knowledge a student’s own.

To illustrate this idea, let’s travel back in time to our own elementary school, to our 5th-grade History (or Social Studies) class, when most of us first heard the "Red Coats" phrase. But on this occasion, let’s give the presentation the visuals and feeling it deserves, let’s make it a LePort style lesson:

Transport yourself to a cabin in early Colonial times (you know, homespun clothes, dirty hands, farm life). You’re ten, and you’re sitting in the living room around a fireplace reading. Above the fireplace, as in most homes of the time, sits a musket. Your dad is there, maybe a brother or sister if you have one. Mom’s out somewhere, don’t know where. Each of you are enjoying a book, you an exciting novel, though you’re a little tense because you’ve heard that British troops – Red Coats – have landed in your town and are abusing locals, some of whom are your friends’ parents. But the presence of the troops is still not fully real. It is still merely a news story to you.

You’re just reaching the climax of your novel, and your mind is now completely absorbed in your book. All of a sudden you hear shouting from outside the door. The voices are garbled at first, but then you make out the words. "The Red Coats are coming! The Red Coats are coming!!" Your eyes immediately shoot to the fireplace, and then to just a few feet up, where your dad’s musket sits. You see the musket as if it’s for the first time. Everything is quiet, motionless; life itself seems to have stopped. Then you remember that your dad is with you, in the living room. You look over to him. He is completely still, so still that his stillness belies what’s occurring within. In his eyes you see the deepest, most serious agitation you have ever seen in a man. One question then immediately comes to your mind: What is dad going to do?

At this point in the lesson, there is not one boy or girl who is really "in" the classroom. Each is in his own mind, living out his own visual story. And each wants to talk about it, to share his feelings. Hell, I want to share my feelings! This is when the teacher would transition to a class discussion – and boy what a discussion it would become.

montessori

As teachers, all of us have experienced those special moments when every child, seemingly without exception, is engaged. In this case, the engagement is accomplished through storytelling. But why is this particular story so compelling? I think it’s because it offers the children a visual and emotional experience. When dramatizing this story in class, there are a few actual visuals a teacher would use – a picture of a British troop (a Red Coat) and a video of a musket being shot – but the real visuals come from within the child’s mind, from his capacity and willingness to use his imagination, to turn the teacher’s words into images … to paint his own unique picture of the story.

Our students have such a capacity in them, if we can provide the spark. Through visual and emotional teaching, we gain huge in our efforts to impart knowledge. And that is why I believe whenever we are speaking in class, our intent should be to help kids see and feel what we’re saying. We’ll succeed if we go in with this underlying objective to make words visual, to transform sounds coming from our mouths into the equivalent of experiential knowledge. This applies throughout subject areas, whether we’re teaching a novel, some math formulas, a grammatical concept, or a species of tree. (No doubt this tactic is most challenging in math, but maybe all the more reason to make it a stretch goal!)

So the takeaway here is simple. Whenever we are prepping what we will teach our kids, or whenever we are up in front of the class ready to say a few words, let’s ask ourselves: Will my students be able to see this, will they be able to feel this? The more we can answer "Yes", the better our classrooms, the better our teaching will be.

Great Teachers Matter – Credentials Don’t

montessori preschool irvine

How much will your child’s success in school and life be influenced by the quality of his teachers? Here is what studies say:

The available evidence suggests that the main driver of the variation in student learning at school is the quality of the teachers. Ten years ago, seminal research based on data from Tennessee showed that if two average eight-year-old students were given different teachers—one of them a high performer, the other a low performer—their performance diverged by more than 50 percentile points within three years…

Another study, this time in Dallas, shows that the performance gap between students assigned three effective teachers in a row, and those assigned three ineffective teachers, was 49 percentile points. In Boston, students placed with top-performing math teachers made substantial gains, while students placed with the worst teachers regressed—their math got worse. Studies that take into account all of the available evidence on teacher effectiveness suggest that students placed with high-performing teachers will progress three times as fast as those placed with low-performing teachers.

mckinsey.com

Another recent study, quoted in the New York Times, put a monetary value on the damage done by just one bad teacher:

Conversely, a very poor teacher has the same effect as a pupil missing 40 percent of the school year. We don’t allow that kind of truancy, so it’s not clear why we should put up with such poor teaching. In fact, the study shows that parents should pay a bad teacher $100,000 to retire (assuming the replacement is of average quality) because a weak teacher holds children back so much.

nytimes.com

No matter where you look, the answer is clear: Good teachers matter tremendously—and if you want to choose a school for your child, you should find one that hires the best.

But what does it mean to be a good teacher? And which schools will ensure your child will have good teachers, consistently?

Unfortunately, public schools, with their strict, union-driven work rules, often take a simplistic approach to teacher quality. While there are no doubt great public school teachers peppered through the system, the underlying approach to teacher selection rarely guarantees that your child will consistently have the best teachers, even in a good school district.

  • Hiring practices that exclude many capable potential teachers. Public schools usually draw their teacher candidates from graduates of education colleges, that is, credentialed teachers. At first blush, this sounds like a good idea: after all, you want a teacher who is well trained, and a credential certifies that the teacher has completed course work on teaching. Many credentialed teachers are in fact highly dedicated, intelligent individuals who are passionate about educating children; but many others, in fact, are not.

    Yet it’s important to understand that teaching credentials are neither necessary nor sufficient in hiring the best teachers.

    • montessori preschool irvine

    • Many smart, dedicated students who graduate with a B.S. or B.A. in a subject field—math, science, literature, history—would make great teachers. They often are passionate about their fields of study; they may have discovered a knack for explaining and mentoring while in college; they have a deep grasp of the subject that they could readily pass on to students. Yet, leaving aside a few alternative certification programs in high-need areas, these outstanding young people are often excluded from teaching by narrow certification requirements that impose onerous additional coursework of questionable merit.
    • A credential, by itself, isn’t necessarily a good indicator of whether someone will make a good teacher. Teacher candidates vary widely in their skills, and admission standards of teacher colleges typically are not as rigorous as those of the top schools offering subject-matter degrees. Certification programs vary significantly in their content—some are more rigorous on subject matter knowledge, for example, while others require students to spend much of their time on courses on teaching processes (which may or many not be of much practical use in the classroom.)
  • Limited ongoing development. In many public school systems, first year teachers immediately teach a full class load. They rarely have extra time to develop or even adapt curriculum; they rarely receive the benefit of regular coaching, or even have the opportunity to observe in a master teacher’s class. Once in, the public school approach seems to be “sink or swim” (beyond whatever support the teacher gets as part of completing her teacher credentialing program).
  • Fast and largely irreversible tenure, which means ineffectual teachers stay on, even when everybody knows they aren’t doing a god job. Most junior teachers get tenure after teaching a mere three or four years, and the standards for tenure are lax. An L.A. Times article reported that 98% of teacher candidates in LA received tenure, after a process so lax that it requires just one unannounced classroom visit by school administrators! Admits the districts superintendent: “Too many ineffective teachers are falling into tenured positions — the equivalent of jobs for life.” Terminating a poorly performing teacher is nearly impossible. Instead, when parents successfully protest about a teacher, the teacher gets moved on to another school or another district, in a process so common it has a name: the “Dance of the Lemons.” 

To summarize:

  • Good teachers are important – critically so!
  • Public schools don’t consistently hire the best and brightest young people as teachers. They don’t train new teachers well. They put teachers on tenure, making it practically impossible to fire teachers who aren’t performing well.

At LePort, we understand how important great teachers are. That’s why our hiring, training and development practices are diametrically opposed to those of public schools:

  • Hiring based on relevant skills and personality traits, not merely credentials. At LePort, we want to hire the most capable and motivated teachers possible. That’s why we hire based on three standards:
    • Deep skills in and passion for the subject the teacher specializes in. In our 4th – 8th grade program, students have different teachers for different subjects: a homeroom teacher, who usually covers literature and language arts, as well as specialist teachers in math, science and history. We believe that these teachers first and foremost must be knowledgeable about their subjects, and passionate about what they teach. This seems obvious—how can a literature teacher instill a passion for books, if he doesn’t love reading—but it’s unfortunately often ignored in other school settings!
    • montessori preschool irvine

    • A love of and skill in working with children. Being a great scientist isn’t enough to teach science at LePort: we understand that a teacher must love sharing his knowledge with students, and must be able to relate well to children, in order to be effective.
    • Joyous, growth-minded character. We want our students to be inspired by their teachers: we expect teachers to model the type of growth-mindset and joyful living we want our students to achieve. What better way to kill a child’s aspirations than to put a cynical teacher in front of him?!

    While some of our teachers hold teaching credentials, we also hire strong candidates who hold Bachelor’s or advanced degrees in the subject matters they want to teach, and in some cases even hire individuals with little formal training in their area but a clear lifelong passion and knowledge in a given area. We regularly review hundreds of resumes and conduct dozens of interviews, to find the best possible teacher candidates.

  • An intensive, structured on-boarding and ongoing development program. Teaching is a skill that can only grow with practice, practice, practice. New teachers at LePort have many opportunities to develop their skills under the guidance of our academic staff:
    • An onboarding training program. When we hire multiple teachers to start for a new school year, we put on a multi-week, intensive training program. Teachers get immersed in our unique curriculum. They practice teaching lessons the LePort way. They observe each other and give and receive feedback. They learn about our systems, from report cards to organization, from classroom management to parent communications. Most of all, they form a learning community – the basis of growing together throughout the year.
    • montessori preschool irvine

    • Ongoing observation and guidance. All teachers, but especially new teachers, receive regular feedback from our academic supervisory staff (the Head of School, the Assistant Head of School, and our Executive Director for the Elementary and Junior High program). We regularly observe teachers in class, and give them feedback on how to improve. We also expect teachers to observe each other’s classes and to give each other detailed feedback. (Curious about this feedback? Click here to read a sample of the feedback one of our newer teachers received after such an observation.)
    • Reduced course loads. While many elementary school teachers in other settings teach all day long, with rarely a break, at LePort, even home room teachers have several hours off during the school day, while the subject matter teachers take over the class. This provides time for them to prepare lessons, observe other classes, and think through any classroom or playground issues so that each student has an optimal learning experience. It also enables them to participate in weekly or bi-weekly departmental meetings to discuss curriculum and pedagogy issues specific to their subject area. Every month during minimum days, teachers also have an afternoon to participate in development workshops and further strengthen their teaching skills by collaborating with each other.
  • A willingness to part with teachers who do not live up to our standards. Letting a teacher go is extremely hard: students and parents connect with teachers, even with some that are not top performers. And bringing a new teacher on board to replace one we let go means a lot of effort and cost. Yet because we know how crucial great teachers are, and because even the best hiring and training system cannot guarantee that every single teacher we bring in is a great fit with our program, we find that we on occasion need to replace a teacher who cannot meet our standards, despite much coaching. Because we are a private school and not bound by onerous union contracts, we are actually able to replace under-performing staff members in a timely fashion.

If you are seriously considering LePort for your child, we invite you to do your research about our teachers. Scroll down and read what some of our parents say about our teachers. Review bios of our teachers (Huntington Pier campus & Irvine Spectrum campus). Watch some videos of our teachers in action. Call us to schedule an observation: we invite you to come in, spend an hour or a half-day in our schools, so you can judge our teachers for yourself.


Related Articles

Elementary & Junior High: Who We Are
Parent Testimonials


LePort teachers love what they do, and care a lot. A great education boils down to the teachers. At LePort, every single teacher is very passionate about his subject, has deep knowledge, and cares personally about his students. There’s a personal relationship that grows between a teacher and each child. The teachers become the student’s role models and mentors. Our son wanted to please his teachers, because he respected and admired them—and that made him strive harder. When his teachers gave him their constructive feedback, it thus motivated him, and allowed him to go back and do even better. I really believe LePort teachers care—they take a vested interest in each student, and there is a strong personal relationship that goes on. You can see that—watching my son leave the school, and how sad he is to have to go, and to not be able to see his teachers every day any more. The heart of LePort is the teachers, individually and as a group. They are all a little different, they have put together a good mix of nice people with their own styles and personalities. Every single teacher at LePort actively engages the children in learning, and connects with them socially.

Kevin G.

The teachers at LePort inspire their students. They are all young and engaging – not teachers that have been doing it for 20 years, and are just going through the motions. Every one of them is sincerely concerned about a student’s personal growth. As they do the academics, they constantly talk about how they relate to the rest of life. All the teachers at LePort are the same way – they have a passion for their work, and it shows with the kids.

Lina S.

LePort’s teachers are consistently amazing. At other schools, you’d have a teacher here and there who would be great; their reputation is well known among parents and students—so you’d hope that your son/daughter was in their class at some point. The astonishing thing about LePort is that every single one of their teachers is excellent. The consistency is incredible: you never have to worry about which teacher your son/daughter will have the following year. To have an entire school of outstanding teachers speaks to their recruiting standards, their processes and how they train teachers as they come into the school. This is even more amazing given that all the LePort teachers are incredibly young!

Maritza A.

All the LePort teachers are excellent. I don’t think there was a bad teacher at LePort at all. Every one of them is an incredible professional, they are into their subjects, they are excited about teaching and learning. And that attitude transferred to the students.

Noreen M.

LePort teachers have what I like to call, “youthful enthusiasm”. This is probably due, in large part, to their clear philosophy that no teacher can teach a subject that they are not personally passionate about. If you think about that, it makes so much sense: if teachers love what they are teaching, that passion is present in every day classroom activity and that enthusiasm filters down to the students. It is apparent that the teachers feel supported. The equation is quite simple really: Happy teachers’ = happy students= happy parents.

Ruthie T.

I am really excited about the LePort teachers’ passion. My daughter will come home talking about history with such enthusiasm, that I even get excited and ask her questions about her history class! Because the teachers are so passionate, students become passionate—and go into real depth to explore the subjects. They become enthusiastic learners, and always ask to learn more. It’s a major contrast to some of our past experiences, where it appeared at times that the teachers didn’t want to teach the subjects, that they just went through the motions, to get the day done.

Tami W.

The passion and compassion of the teachers is rare—it is something that’s difficult to find. My younger daughter would just talk non-stop about her teachers, about how much she admired them, and how she respected them and enjoyed working with them. The LePort teachers took time to work with each of my girls, to help my older daughter fill in her knowledge gap due to illness, and to inspire my younger daughter to become an eager reader and writer. It also inspired my girls to be able to see a woman as amazing as Lindsay Journo, the head of school, and to dialogue with her every day: their teachers truly became role models – and that’s a hard thing to achieve in middle school.

Tom C.

What Sets LePort Montessori Apart From Other Montessori Schools?

montessori preschool daycare palos verdes

If you are reading this, you may be looking for a preschool–and may be curious about whether Montessori is a preschool education that makes sense for your family.

As you research Montessori, it is important to know that Montessori isn’t a trademarked term, nor a franchised system, not even a national brand you can trust. Unfortunately, it’s not true that every Montessori preschool delivers on the promise that Montessori offers. As education-journalist Peg Tyre correctly states:

A school can call itself a Montessori program, and many do, without knowing a single thing about the educational philosophy developed by Dr. Maria Montessori.

Peg Tyre

In many major metropolitan areas (think Orange County, LA, or San Diego), you have many Montessori preschools to choose from. (The last time we counted, there were over two dozen Montessori preschools in our home market of Orange County alone, and we probably missed some!) If you’ve done your research and agree that the Montessori method is right for your child, the next step is choosing one of those preschools.

So what do you look for when you tour different Montessori preschools? What differentiates an authentic preschool program that takes the methodology seriously, from one that may be more interested in utilizing the Montessori name as a means of attracting parents, but does not really strive to apply the method in the classroom and preschool community?

Or, put from our perspective, why do we think you should choose one of LePort’s Montessori preschools?

A few years ago, I was in your shoes: when my daughter was about 2 years old, I toured a handful of Montessori preschools in Oakland, CA, where I lived at the time, and enrolled her in what I thought was a good program, conveniently located near our home. Unfortunately, as I educated myself about Montessori and joined the LePort leadership team, I discovered that while the school was a nice, friendly preschool, they were not serious about applying Maria Montessori’s educational principles. (They also fell woefully short on customer service to me, a working parent.) After more research, and much soul-searching, we moved her to another, better Montessori preschool, where my daughter and son experienced a good bilingual Montessori education. (We later moved to Orange County, where both of my children now attend our LePort Montessori elementary school program.)

Now, when friends ask me for a cheat-sheet for touring Montessori preschools, here’s what I tell them to look for:

montessori preschool daycare palos verdes

    1. Head teachers who have completed a year-long, intensive Montessori training program, preferably from an AMI training center. At LePort Montessori, our preschool head teachers typically have a Bachelor’s degree, and a credential from AMI, the Association Montessori Internationale, which is the original training organization founded over 60 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori. While there are other good training programs we occasionally hire from (most are MACTE accredited), we have found that AMI consistently selects highly-motivated and skilled candidates, and provides them with the most rigorous training possible. Be aware that some schools conduct quick “in-house-trainings”, sometimes lasting only a few weeks, and that some teachers at other schools have learned their skills from books or online-only self-study curricula. Also ask about teacher experience and training: ideally, teachers new to Montessori have experienced mentors to work with and learn from, before taking over their own classrooms!
    2. montessori preschool daycare palos verdesMixed-age preschool classrooms, which combine 3- to 6-year-olds into a family-like community. Many so-called Montessori preschools have succumbed to the traditional preschool approach of splitting children into the “Twos”, “Threes” and so on, or are separating out Kindergarten-aged children into separate groups. A mixed age group is essential to a real Montessori preschool program: it allows children to learn at their own pace, to learn from older peers and become mentors in turn, and to build a strong bond with a teacher, who gets to know a child closely over the three years she’s in her preschool class, and can guide her as an individual. The final year–the Kindergarten year that the child starts when he has turned five–is a critical, cashing-in year, and allowing children to complete the full three-year-cycle in one classroom community is critical to reap the tremendous benefits from Kindergarten in Montessori. 
    3. Extended, uninterrupted, child-led work periods, preferably 2-3 hours in length, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Montessori is about enabling the child to follow his own interests, to learn at his own pace and on his own schedule. A good Montessori classroom offers him plenty of space and time to explore what interests him, in contrast to the adult-led, group-focused programs common in typical preschools.
    4. A high-quality, clean, bright, peaceful preschool classroom environment, equipped with a full range of Montessori materials.montessori preschool daycare palos verdesIt should go without saying that a child’s preschool environment should be clean, bright and beautiful, but unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of clutter and messiness at some preschools we’ve visited. Equipping a school with a full set of Montessori materials is not cheap (we budget about $20,000 for materials for each preschool room, and regularly invest in improving our programs, such as buying thousands of dollars in new books for our phonetic reading program!), but it is essential to ensuring the children get the most out of their Montessori preschool experience.
    5. A mature school organization, with well-honed hiring and teacher-training programs, and a strong leadership team. Finding great teachers is a learned skill, as is training them. Our schools have many head-teachers who have been with us for years. When we hire new teachers, we typically give them the opportunity to co-teach with an expert for several months to a year or two, so they can give your child the best instruction when they take over his classroom. Several part-time and full-time Montessori experts at all levels–from infants to middle school–and a full-time Head of School at each school, help us ensure that every classroom consistently delivers the highest quality experience for our students. Plus, they enable us to put on a lot of Parent Information Events and social get-togethers, which help you to be a part of making your child’s education the best it can be, and finding a community of like-minded parents, thus creating your own chosen village for raising your child.

montessori preschool daycare palos verdes

  1. A professional administration that understands how important convenience and customer service are to you as a busy parent. While your primary concern should rightly be your child’s experience, a good preschool also looks out for you as a parent. Nothing is more annoying than holiday schedules that leave you scrambling to find alternate child care, or not knowing what your child does at preschool day-to-day, or not being able to reach your teacher or the preschool staff when you have an urgent question. We take pride in running LePort to high standards in customer service, and always welcome parent feedback that helps us improve.

We hope that you are making progress in your preschool research, and we’d be thrilled if after careful consideration, you chose LePort Montessori as the preschool for your child.

Rituals and routines: the home/school connection

Dropping a baby off at daycare for the first time can be a very sad event for a mom or dad. After all, it’s a transition from being able to observe, experience and guide every aspect of your child’s life, to one where she’ll now regularly be away from you for hours at a time.

We know this separation is hard—probably harder for parents than for babies!

But we also know one thing that makes it easier: when we engage in frequent, detailed, two-way communication with parents, and see work with them as a partner rather than treating you as a mere client. To put it differently, our goal is to work with you to build a community around your child. At LePort Montessori, we simply have too much respect for the bond between parent and child to approach it any other way.

We are experienced experts in helping children thrive. We encourage you to see us as more than just a daycare, as as a resource to make sure your child has the best possible start. We want to be there to help you, not merely by offering daycare, but by being your partner. We want to keep you informed, to answer child-rearing questions you have, and to offer suggestions how to help your child at home, too.

Because we offer a Montessori infant program, our focus is on your child’s overall growth and well being as a developing individual, not just some delimited metric of growth in some specific area. This means that the home/school connection, and building a community on that basis, is central to what we do. Here’s the many ways we interact and communicate with parents who enroll their baby with us:

  • Free home visits prior to the first day.
    One of our trained teachers will come to your home for an (optional) home visit, before your baby starts his Montessori daycare experience with us. We want to understand your infant’s environment, so we can ensure a smooth transition. We also want to spend quality one-on-one time with you, so we can build a relationship, and answer questions you have in the privacy of your home. While we are with you, we may offer up ideas on how to align your home environments with the Montessori approach your child will experience in his class—and we’ll provide you with a free copy of a great little book, In A Montessori Home, so you can read up on simple changes you can make at home, too.
  • A carefully coordinated transition to school.
    At some daycare centers, on the first day, you may come to the facility, drop your baby off, and depart for the day. Not so at LePort. We invite you and your baby to visit for an hour or so together. Then we’ll have him come for a partial day, and finally, for a full day when he’s ready. This transition allows all of us to get comfortable with each other.  Throughout, we’ll communicate regularly – with quick phone updates, chats at pick-up, and photos we’ll email to you.
  • A daily written update.
    Babies change so quickly, and so do their routines. Each morning, you’ll complete a quick report updating your child’s primary caregiver about his activities (sleep, eating, health.) Each evening, you’ll receive a form back with similar details, as well as with information on the supplies your child may need (diapers, underwear, sunscreen.)
  • An open-door policy and frequent informal communication.
    As a parent, you are always welcome to visit your infant at our schools. We especially welcome breastfeeding moms on breaks, too. You can also have a quick chat with your child’s teacher at drop-off or pick-up, or schedule an after-school meeting with her at any time.
  • A weekly logistical email.
    Every Tuesday, you’ll get a detailed email with updates about all upcoming events, deadlines and activities relevant to you child’s daycare experience at LePort Montessori. It’s a great way to stay on top of things like photo days, parent education events, holiday parties and re-enrollment deadlines.
  • Frequent educational information.
    You’ll receive email updates, handouts, and blog links about infant development regularly, on topics from sleep training to toileting, from feeding to language development. You’ll also receive frequent emails with photos of your child in class through our Transparent Classroom parent communication system; often, emails will contain links to a description of what your baby does, so you can learn how he/she is, in fact, learning and not just spending the day in traditional daycare. Finally, we offer parent education nights at school four times a year: please join, as these are great opportunities to learn more about Montessori, and to see your child’s classroom from the inside.
  • Regular conferences and written progress reports.
    Because we offer an education from the start, not just daycare, our infant teachers get together with parents twice a year for a formal conference. We also provide you with a written progress report that summarized your child’s development over the past year.
  • Parent-only school Facebook group.
    Each LePort school has a private, parent/teacher Facebook group. This is where we regularly post photos from school, and where you can interact and form a community with other parents at your child’s school.

Think about LePort not just as a daycare option, but as a dedicated partner in your child’s early years. Together, in regular communication, we can help your child take his first steps towards growing into that happy, healthy, flourishing adult you will someday have the pleasure of knowing.

The four key attributes of a great infant teacher

The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.
Dr. Maria Montessori

The most significant relationship in your child’s life is his or her relationship with you. Your connection with your baby is uniquely special, and at some level your child is aware of that irreplaceable bond.

But after you (and your child’s other parent/guardian), the next most significant impact on your baby’s development will come from the childcare provider you choose. She will be a major role model for your baby, and will contribute to his developing view of the world. She will impact his use of language, his social bonds with other children, and other areas of his growth. When you’re not there, it is her he’ll rely on for understanding and nurturing.  When looking at childcare centers, this means that the type of people the center chooses as caregivers will determine how joyful and educational your baby’s time away from you will be.

In contrast to most childcare facilities, who look for caregivers, LePort specifically hires infant teachers. We believe the time we spend with your baby is too important to be viewed as mere childcare: we look for teachers who can nurture your child and help him mature cognitively and behavorially, in addition to comforting him and keeping him safe.

All of our teachers meet the base standards required at childcare centers: every teacher has completed her early childhood education units; teachers are CPR trained, and undergo a complete background check and health exam. What makes LePort different is that we go beyond this minimum standard.

We look for four key attributes in our infant teachers, both when we initially hire them, and as we develop them while they work with us:

  • A passion and love for working with babies.
    At LePort, we strongly believe that you have to be passionate to do a good job: we want students to be passionate about learning, and we only hire teachers for whom being with children is a passion, not just a job.  This is especially important for our infant teachers. In contrast to the typical childcare center, which often hires low-skilled caregivers, and as a result experience high staff turn-over, we hire people who are excited to be guides in a young child’s development; who view their role not as a temporary job, but as a career requiring thought, reflection, professional growth. We believe this passion is visible in their day-to-day interactions with the babies in our care: come and see for yourself!
  • Infinite patience and a calm, centered personality.
    Providing childcare to an infant is hard work, with many emotional challenges (and, of course, immense joys!). We have found that patience—infinite patience—is essential to working well with babies. Because our infant teachers love this age group, they delight in observing each baby, in discovering his unique temperament, and in responding to his individual needs. This focus on observation, and the knowledge of the importance of the early years, helps our teachers be unfailingly patient (and admirably more calm and centered than many of us are with our own children at home!)
  • An explicit, thoughtful approach to nurturing and guiding young children.
    Our Montessori-trained lead teachers love working at LePort, because we offer an authentic Montessori infant program. In many childcare settings, there isn’t an explicit approach to guide the day-to-day life with infants. What happens in one childcare room may be different from another one next door; and as childcare providers are often short-time employees, it often changes from week to week, or month to month. This can be very confusing for babies, who urgently need consistency to bring order to their world. In contrast, our program consistently applies Montessori ideas, such as following the child, encouraging independence, observing and individualizing instruction, and using positive approaches to discipline.Our Montessori-trained lead teachers guide those staff members new to the program, and help them to consistently implement this positive, respectful and loving approach to caring for babies and young toddlers.
  • A thoughtful, educated and intelligent individual.
    In her book, The Good School, author Peg Tyre quotes a preschool teacher who explains why intelligence really matters for teachers of young children:
    The best preschool teachers turn out to be ones who are very smart. “There’s a lot of things that you have to figure out. Preschool can be more difficult than the other grades because a lot of your teaching has to be embedded in other things. Understand that when you are playing with one child you’re working on their vocabulary, and with another child that you’re facilitating social skills and you’re teaching it through indirect ways.” Peg Tyre

    That’s one of the reasons we look to hire smart, university-educated individuals to become teachers, even in our infant classrooms. Yes, childcare providers for babies don’t have to demonstrate mastery in algebra—but they have to be able to think on their feet, to be creative, and to be able to observe and respond to each baby’s needs and personality. They also are one of baby’s key role models, which means they need to speak in simple, yet rich and grammatically correct sentences.


Hiring the most talented and dedicated teachers, and maintaining a 1:3 ratio isn’t the cheapest way to run a childcare center. To the contrary, it’s expensive. But our goal at LePort Montessori isn’t just to run a childcare facility. Our aim is to offer an enriched, Montessori educational environment as your baby’s home away from home.

This means only intelligent, high-energy, passionate yet patient individuals can qualify to work in our program. Hard to find? Yes—we review scores of resumes and conduct dozens of multiple-round interviews. But then that’s our responsibility: finding the best possible individuals to guide your child during his critical early years. Lucikily, with our reputation as the highest-quality, most authentic Montessori school in Orange County, and one who provides an excellent, supportive work environment for teachers, we usually have our pick of applicants!

Your top 6 questions about infant childcare, answered

The decision to leave your baby in someone else’s care is probably about as anxiety-provoking as any decision you’ll have to face as a parent. At LePort we speak with many new parents who struggle with the thought even once they’ve made the choice to enroll. It’s not until their baby is actually settled and happy in the program for a few weeks that the stress fully goes away.

But that said, we’ve also noticed that it really helps to put your concerns in words. Doing your research won’t entirely eliminate the emotions, but it will help to know that you’ve asked a lot of questions and are (intellectually at least) comfortable with the answers.

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In our experience, we’ve found there are a series of recurring questions from parents of young babies. To help you ferret out what matters as you discuss your options, we thought we’d summarize the six top questions about childcare for babies we hear all the time, and provide our answers.

    1. If I put my baby in a childcare environment, will he be safe from physical harm and illnesses? With the right childcare arrangements, the answer is a resounding yes! If you entrust your baby to professionals, and choose a childcare program that is designed explicitly around the needs of babies, your child can be at least as safe there as she is at home.LePort’s Montessori infant program offers an environment that is optimally aligned around the needs of babies. Every piece of furniture has rounded edges. Areas where children pull up (and thus may fall down!) are padded with soft floor mats. There are no small objects in the room that could be choking hazards, nor any loose electrical cords. A 1:3 ratio, with four adults in each room, ensures that babies are carefully supervised all the time (although we may flex to a 1:4 ratio when several children are sleeping at one time). When a primary teacher needs a break, a floater will come in to cover, ensuring uninterrupted coverage.

      Obviously, when a group of babies are together in a childcare setting, minimizing the risk of contagious illnesses is important. That’s why our infant areas are professionally cleaned every day. Teachers and parents must wear covers over shoes to enter (or switch into inside shoes.) Food is kept strictly separated, surfaces are wiped down regularly, and teachers engage in and teach proper hand washing practices.

      That said, you should expect your child to have more common colds in childcare than if she were at home alone. If this is a concern, we encourage you to look into how strengthening her immune system actually has many potential benefits.

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    1. Will my baby feel loved? Or will she miss her mom and dad terribly while at childcare? We’ll be the first to admit it: no one can love your baby the way you do! Your special relationship with your child is irreplaceable.That said, we think our teachers are as good a substitute to your presences as possible. We select our teachers not only on their knowledge and expertise, but also on how much they love being with infants. But, of course, seeing is believing: we invite you to contact us to schedule a tour, so you can see for yourself how our teachers interact and nurture the babies in their care.

      From years of experience, we know that it is often easier to transition a child to childcare early, as a baby, than it is to do so later, during the toddler years. Separation anxiety peaks around 12-18 months. By starting your child in the infant program, you can help her to become familiar with her teacher and new environment prior to that critical phase, making things easier for her and for you.

    2. My work commitments require me to leave my child for up to nine hours a day, five days a week. Can your program accommodate my work schedule, and offer quality care to my baby for that much time? No question about it: working full time, while you have an infant, is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do as a parent. You want to be with your baby as much as possible, and rightly so: strong parent-child attachment early on is one key factor to baby’s health.Many parents, though, manage to juggle full-time work and being a great parent. One key factor to being able to attend to work full-time is finding an optimal childcare environment for your baby. We believe LePort does offer such an environment.

      The reason is that we know how critical these early years are, so emphatically offer not just childcare, but a Montessori educational program right from the beginning. We replicate many of the things a parent can offer at home, but that often get short-shrift in a typical childcare center.

      We invite you to read more about what makes our Montessori infant program unique:

      • Learn about what Montessori for infants means, and how it compares to typical childcare.
      • Research trade-offs between hiring a nanny and enrolling your bay in LePort’s Montessori infant program.
      • Understand how we select our infant teachers.

      With the right program, you can leave your child with confidence. We encourage you to do your research!

    3. My baby has a hard time sleeping. How do you manage naps with so many children in one childcare room? Will he get enough sleep to thrive?We’ve come to believe that parents have this concern in part because of the actual practices of daycare facilities. In many infant program settings, there is a strictly enforced group schedule: all babies eat together, assembly-line style. All babies nap together, at the same time. All babies play together.We do not take this approach at LePort. Instead, we work with you to replicate techniques that work best at home for your child’s sleep patterns, while sharing tips from our experts for optimizing your child’s sleep. Our nap rooms provide a dedicated crib or low floor bed for your child in a peaceful place where noise is minimized and tranquility is heightened. While pacifiers are permitted in younger infant environments, to promote independence and oral health we assist children as quickly as possible to wean from any pacifier use. We also help prevent tooth decay by refraining from placing bottles in cribs, or having children fall asleep while drinking a bottle.

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      We will rock or hold a young infant who needs such comforting to fall asleep, while working with the child and parents to encourage self-regulation in sleep habits. Our goal is for your child to recognize sleep as a peaceful opportunity to self-soothe and rest because he or she is tired, just as a child will eat when hungry. If your child arrives asleep in a car seat, he or she will be gently placed in a crib or on a floor bed. Children will have the opportunity to awaken from sleep naturally, rather than being awakened by an adult.

    4. Don’t babies need lots of one-on-one attention during the first year? Will my baby miss out, if he is one of ten or twelve children in a childcare room? Babies absolutely need a lot of attention. That’s one of the reasons why we maintain a 1:3 ratio in our infant program. (When several children are asleep at once, we may flex to the 1:4 ratio typical in other childcare settings.) Still, three babies can seem like a lot for one teacher to love, nurture and cuddle with all day long.We believe a 1:3 ratio is sufficient to allow one-on-one love and nurturing because our whole environment is set up to support our staff and make individualized attention possible. Here are a few things you may want to consider as you decide whether a 1:3 ratio is something you can be comfortable with:

      infant-crawling-mirror-day-care

      • Our individualized program means not all children have the same needs at the same time. Your child’s primary care provider in many cases will not be feeding three children at once. One of her babies may be asleep, while another one is happily playing with one of our many fun activities, leaving her free to focus on your child.
      • Children benefit from some independence, even as babies. Many parents of multiple children will tell you that child #2 has a longer attention span and is more independent. Why? Because she’s never gotten used to having an adult with her, entertaining her every minute of her waking life! Babies actually benefit from the opportunity to explore their environment, to touch things, and to observe, without being actively stimulated by an adult 24/7.
      • Older infants often engage in parallel play with peers. While being left to their own devices at home can leave babies bored, in our rooms, there is so much to look at: other infants playing, care-takers feeding children, older babies crawling around. And once baby can sit up, she’ll often be happy playing alongside another little person: it’s socialization in action!
      • Additional help is always available. We have a trained Head of School, an administrative team, and “floater” teachers onsite who can be called upon for support any time there are needed.

      “It is necessary for the teacher to guide the child without letting him feel her presence too much, so that she may always be ready to supply the desired help, but may never be the obstacle between the child and his experience.”–Dr. Maria Montessori

 

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  1. I’m breastfeeding. How can I keep that up when my baby is in childcare? We support breastfeeding moms to continue breastfeeding as long as is right for you and your baby:
    • Moms are encouraged to bring expressed breast milk to school. We’ll store your milk in our refrigerator, and happily feed it to your child while you are at work.
    • We will adjust your baby’s feeding schedule to support your breastfeeding. Please let us know when you’ll be picking your baby up: that way, we can make sure he’s not just been fed a bottle when you come and are ready to nurse!
    • Moms are always welcome to nurse baby onsite. Our infant rooms all provide comfortable nursing chairs. If you work close by, please feel free to visit during a break, and nurse your baby mid-day.

Just not good enough: why your child deserves a better curriculum

If you attended Elementary Curriculum Night, you had a sneak-peek into LePort’s unique approach to education. [See the videos at the bottom if you weren’t able to attend.]

In this newsletter, I’d like to offer you further insight into what makes LePort’s curriculum different. How does LePort’s approach, which we call “Knowledge for Life”, compare with the California Standards?

Almost everyone agrees that there’s something wrong with “teaching to the test”, the practice of focusing in school on memorizing and drilling for standardized tests. But this practice is based on the California Standards—the textbooks, lessons and outcome measures approved by State education committees.

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At LePort, the “passion for learning” is kept alive

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What does medieval history have to do with a juicy steak from a modern, upscale restaurant? Read on, watch the video and find out!

In a recent LA Times article, education reporter Karin Klein reflects on her experience at her children’s back-to-school nights:

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