Enabling Children To Pursue Their Goals Long-Range
So They Can Flourish as Children Today and Adults Tomorrow
At LePort, we understand that deep knowledge and strong thinking skills are a foundation upon which to educate the whole child. Both inside and outside the classroom, we guide our students as they build strength of character and learn personal, social and life skills. Personal development at LePort is not a separate subject taught as an abstract lecture; in our personal development program called PE3, lesson are learned as part of the little daily decisions that make up the routine of life itself. Our emphasis is on practical coaching, modeling and guidance, so children experience the moral lessons and skills as relevant to their lives, and apply them right away.
Our goal is to enable your child to grow up as a good person – that is, someone who can identify her goals and values thoughtfully and deliberately, and can act long-range, in principled pursuit of those values. We want her to acquire the character traits necessary to live a happy, successful life – such as honesty, responsibility, and just treatment of others. We aim to equip her with a strong moral compass, which will guide her as she journeys through life, and enable her to stick to the right path despite temptations and set-backs. We want our students to be high-minded, kind and benevolent, and thoroughly capable of acting efficaciously in the world.
From preschool through junior high, the LePort Personal Development program focuses on four areas:
- Developing a pro-work attitude and perseverance – enabling children to thoughtfully select ambitious but achievable goals, and guide them as they develop the work habits and skills necessary to succeed, and experience the pleasure of achieving their values.
- Creating an upstanding moral character – showing them in action, for example, how honesty leads to peace of mind and trust, how just action towards others builds benevolent human relationships, how standing up for one’s ideals in action earns respect and furthers one’s goals.
- Learning the practical life skills necessary to succeed in life – showing them the power, satisfaction, and practical reward of organization, time management, responsibility, healthy living, and other such practices.
- Developing strong social skills – appreciating the value other people bring to our lives, dealing with peers and adults fairly, developing the grace and courtesy skills necessary for mature interaction, and developing a basic benevolent attitude towards people.
We call our approach to Personal Development the LePort PE3, after its three key elements: a Pro-Effort approach and focus on work as self-actualization – a carefully Prepared Environment in which the child can develop and learn, and a focus on learning from Personal Experiences and through real-life examples.
- Pro-Effort Approach. At LePort, we view “work” – that is, a self-chosen and self-initiated activity that requires sustained concentration in the pursuit of a goal – as fundamental to personal growth. As our students apply their knowledge in practice – using the bead materials to do long multiplication in Montessori, or writing a report on a historical figure in Junior High – they learn to think, to persevere, to organize their minds and apply knowledge in the pursuit of goals. They develop a “growth mindset” – the fundamental conviction that they can shape their own success, rather than being trapped by circumstance or inborn talent.
- Prepared Environment. We purposefully create a benevolent and orderly environment that nurtures a child’s enjoyment of learning and living. It starts with our curriculum and approach to teaching – and extends to the people, rules, practices and expectations we put in place to teach social and practical life skills. From our Montessori classroom’s child-centered set-up, to our detailed report cards for our 4th-8th graders: nothing at LePort happens by accident.
- Personal Experiences and real-life examples. We believe that lessons in moral and personal development for young children are best delivered through concrete, real-life experiences that arise in the every-day life at our school. From the Montessori child who learns to ask for help in a nice voice, to the junior high student who discovers that cheating leads to a loss of trust with his peers, our role as educators here is not to lecture on moral theory, but to act as role models and guides.
Our graduates are children who have developed a strong sense of personal identity: they have learned to act in pursuit of their chosen goals, and have developed goals they’re motivated to pursue. Our graduates are young people who have developed real, earned self-esteem. As the examples of our alumni make evident, a child who has developed such a strong core will not have any difficulty thriving in the less-structured environments of high school and college.
What to do about cheating? At every school, teachers have to deal with kids who cheat – and what they do says a lot about their approach to personal development. There are many ways to deal with academic dishonesty – the student could be required to do penance by writing an apology, his parents could be notified, he could flunk the course or even be expelled.
At LePort, our goal is helping the student change for the better – helping him overcome his habitual cheating through a step-by-step program. Here’s a specific case: a fourth-grader, let’s call him Lester, cheated on a quiz. Our teacher told Lester he had been caught cheating – and asked him why he did it. Lester admitted to cheating and promised he would never do it again.
Rather than stopping here, or punishing Lester by detention or worse, our teacher helped Lester think through the moral issues: how did cheating make you feel? Why do you think cheating is wrong? What would you think if others cheated? She also explained that cheating was a habit – that because he had cheated before, he would likely do it again. Instead of threatening punishment for future cheating, our teacher acknowledged that Lester would need help changing his behavior.
She told him “Lester, you will probably cheat again. If you do, the most important thing is that afterwards, you face that fact and come and tell me. I don’t want you to promise not to cheat, I want you to promise only that if you do cheat, you’ll come and tell me. It’s going to be really hard because you are trying not to cheat, and you won’t like having to tell me. But if you tell me, I won’t be mad. Instead, we’ll talk about it. I will think you have taken a very important step. Can you do that?”
Our teacher helped bring a moral issue to the forefront – and created an achievable, intermediary step which set Lester on the right course. With his long-term habit of cheating, Lester could not be expected to stop cold-turkey, by willpower alone – but he could fess up to cheating when it happened.
When Lester cheated again, in a game on the playground a few weeks later, he came and told his teacher, and they talked about what happened. She asked him to make the same promise again. When Lester earned an “A” on a test he studied for very hard, the teacher pointed out to Lester how much better that “A” felt now that he had earned it.
By acting as a mirror, highlighting moral choices, and by creating a psychological environment that sets Lester up for ultimate success, that puts him in control of small, realistic steps towards personal improvement, our teacher’s actions are a great example of LePort Personal Development in action.