Hi! I'm Moorea Maguire. My mission is to help students excel in Algebra 1. Word problems are my specialty.
Born and raised near Los Angeles, California, I graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The southwest beckoned me back, and I found myself studying curriculum & instruction at New Mexico State University. View my teaching certificate and master's degree in education.
Certified in 6th to 12th grade math, I taught at a multi-family homeschool in New Mexico, public schools in Arizona, and private schools in Costa Rica and Mexico. Southern Europe is my current home.
As a teacher, the constantly changing course assignments and non-teaching workload prevented me from providing the personal attention I wanted to give to each student.
Middle and high school teachers have my undying respect. Only the toughest survive. Disruptive students, cheating, and plagiarism ultimately fall on teachers' shoulders.
It's striking that none of the blame placed on public schools is directed toward administrators who fail to retain good teachers.
The reason why I'm no longer a teacher is that I, a former college athlete, wasn't strong enough.
When the media talk about the teacher shortage, they don't mention the actual problem, which is retention. Teaching is not just a vocation. Working conditions matter. Salary is only part of the picture.
When you see your child's teachers, remember that they're exhausted. Instead of viewing teachers as in perpetual need of training (and rest assured that they take plenty of continuing education), we ought to view them as they are: pragmatic, wise, hard-working, highly-skilled public servants. High turnover harms students. High turnover harms the future of democracy. In order to raise informed citizens, we must treat our teachers better.
Many believe that teachers' unions are the cause of poor public education in the USA. Now, let's look at states with anti-organized-labor legislation. Think of the places where unions are weak or non-existent.
Is the public education in those places better than in states like California and New York, which have strong teachers' unions?
I didn't think so.
For six years, I taught at a corporate online charter school. Errors abounded in the pre-packaged curricula. The technology, while decades ahead of what I had used in brick & mortar schools, contained bugs. The heavy workload made me feel as if I were hustling to keep up with an assembly line.
In the video below, Liz Scheltens and Mallory Brangan summarize the problem. For the record, some students did very well at our school. Online education can be ideal for some kids, but the current system needs to be overhauled.
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A fair question posed by many parents who send their kids to brick & mortar public schools is, "Why is the teacher so mediocre?"
The answer is that the teacher doesn't have the luxury of a class size of 6. If she has a one-on-one talk with one student, other students will begin destroying classroom materials or bullying their classmates.
The fact is that not all parents parent. Not all parents are given the chance to parent. This leads to some children habitually interfering with their classmates' learning. Furthermore, the teacher has learned the hard way not to depend on administrators for support. Sometimes administrators help with disruptive students; other times they ignore teachers' requests for help.
So the teacher has learned to design lessons that prevent all students from acting out. This means seating students in rows facing the board. This means worksheets completed individually.
Other teachers get accustomed to a chaotic classroom.
We as a society can't have it both ways. We can't expect teachers to single-handedly manage all their discipline problems AND have students always on task, quietly working on interactive, hands-on assignments, grappling with intellectually challenging concepts.
Teaching helped me to understand the importance of desegregation. Please send your kid to a socioeconomically diverse public school. Not your city's Stuyvesant. Not a charter school (unless it's accountable to voters). Let go of the concept of the "best" school, which -- let's be honest -- is really just the school with the highest-educated parents. Let's abolish public schools with admissions processes. The "good" schools at which I taught had plenty of not-so-good students. And the "bad" schools had plenty (albeit a small percentage) of excellent students. If your child is a good student, her grades and letters of recommendation will reflect that.
Yes, I'm sure your child is gifted and talented. But you know who's also gifted or talented? Other students in your city -- just not necessarily in the same way. Let your child be a positive influence on his classmates who don't have parents as good as you. Yes, your local public high school has a drug problem. But you know which high schools also have drugs? All of them. Nurture a trusting relationship with your child. Listen to her. Talk to her about making choices.
We're all on this planet together. We need to learn from each other. If your local public school isn't good enough for your son, it shouldn't be good enough for your neighbor's son either. If you don't like it, run for the school board or your state legislature.
The vast majority of reporting on K-12 education is abysmal. The following articles are the exception:
To close, I want to share some of my favorite insightful or funny quotes from my former students:
"Is it really fair that you need money to get elected? I'm sure there are a lot of great people without money that would represent us well."
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Prompt: Write about your progress toward your goal.
Student: "My progress toward my goal is in progress.". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"If I were a research psychologist the study I would conduct to add to the body of knowledge on this topic would be why people bully others, what they get out of it and what is behind the reasons why they do it. Some I’m sure do it just out of fun and to be mean but why does that feel good to them? What exactly is going on with them for them to bully others?". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
". . . Our culture views people that have suicidal tendencies as crazy, wired, freaks and instead of trying to help them they ignore them and make them feel worse than they already do. . .". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"I’ve saved a lot of animals, some on the brink of death and it feels really good to be able to say I’ve accomplished something as big as that. The cost is great to be a vet, not only financially but emotionally as well, I’ve considered all options. The extra years of school for this is going to be grueling but if I finish it I will come out strong. I dream to open a practice that not only helps animals but low income families like me, who can’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars on an emergency walk in. I want to make a difference in the world and I feel like this will help so many other people out there who think of their pets as part of the family, like I do with mine.". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Prompt: Describe a career that would fit you well. Give a rationale for why that career would fit you.
"Video game tester? I like playing video games.". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"For this part of the assignment, I chose to sit down with my mom- and listen to how her day went. Before that conversation, I didn’t realize how frequently I interrupted people with my own thoughts, and how hard it is to just sit and listen. Those few minutes were different than our typical conversations, because I truly listened to what my mom had to say, and really heard her speaking. I think we both felt really good after the conversation, because she had a chance to speak her mind without interruption- and I managed to not do anything else, but listen. While reading the articles, the main theme that really resonated with me was that it wasn’t how long your interview is that matters, but the quality of what’s in it."
To contact Moorea Maguire, please send a message using the gray chat box. If it says "Leave a message," it'll go directly to my e-mail inbox.