Boston mayoral candidate John Connolly likes to say that he wants to be the city’s education mayor. But teacher Nancy Bloom, who taught at the same charter school at which Connolly briefly worked, says that, like the Snark-hunter in Lewis Carroll’s famous poem, whether Connolly proclaims his knowledge of education once, twice or a thousand times, it won’t be true. “This is for you, Bellman Connolly,” writes Bloom. “Your three lies and one truth.”
“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”
From The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
By Nancy Bloom
John Connolly likes to say that he wants to be Boston’s education mayor but the title of first Snark-hunting mayor might be more accurate. Whether he proclaims his knowledge of education thrice or a thousand times, it won’t be true. This is for you, Bellman Connolly. Your three lies and one truth.
Lie 1: Boston is just the place for a Snark charter school on every corner. Look, the fact is that charters aren’t educating all of Boston’s children. If a child’s native language isn’t English or if that child qualifies for special education services, he or she will probably not attend a charter. Just look at the stats, Bellman. They are on the DESE web site. And while you’re there getting some actual data, look at the number of times charters suspend students compared to public schools. Discipline is pathologically harsh at charter schools. It is true that some charters produce higher test scores than some Boston Public Schools, but that goes both ways. New Mission High out-performs most charter schools.
Lie 2: “I really wanted to be a teacher.” Really John? What happened? Did you go to law school and then enter into a lucrative career as a corporate lawyer by accident? If you really wanted to be a teacher, you would have become a teacher.
Lie 3: “I am a teacher.” John, this whole former teacher thing is the biggest lie of all. You’re not a teacher and your three years of experience don’t make you a teacher. Any real teacher can explain this to you. For me, it isn’t just my two masters degrees in education, undergraduate degree in literature or state certifications in special education and reading that make me a teacher. It isn’t even the countless workshops, classes and conferences I have attended over the years to learn more about literacy. It is more about the passion I feel for teaching dyslexic children to read and autistic children to understand what they are reading. It is knowing that every child I work with is profoundly unique and that I can lean on my ten years of experience to find exactly what each child needs to become literate citizens. Above all, it is knowing that being a teacher is a never-ending process.
One Truth: A tear rolled down John Connolly’s cheek as he described his one year teaching at the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School. Guess what John? I was a special education teacher at the Renaissance from 2007 to 2012. There is still plenty to cry about at that school. You thought it was chaotic back then? I used to joke that, as the day progressed, the Renaissance would descend into the Middle Ages. Chaos continues in spite of the amazing, well educated, certified teachers who work there. Well at least the teachers who don’t get fired or quit every year. The turnover is still astounding. You see John, most of the children at the Renaissance have a personal knowledge of gun violence, know what it’s like to be hungry and cold, and have been afraid that their homes won’t be there at the end of the school day. Their moms, as you like to call them, are working too many hours to coach soccer, join the PTA or pass out flyers. These kids need to be safe, healthy and well fed before they can do well at school. Poverty is an excuse John. You should try it sometime.
In John Connolly’s most recent ad, he claims that as mayor he will hold principals, teachers and students accountable. Accountable for what? More dollars from the corporate reformers who support his campaign? Test scores for students with special needs, for the kids who are learning English, and for those who have experienced trauma? Instead of hunting for Snarks, John Connolly should hold himself accountable for the facts. He is not a teacher and charter schools aren’t the answer. Boston’s real education mayor will support experienced, well-trained teachers working with healthy children who live in safe neighborhoods.