The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Throughout the time I spent reading Rivera-McCutchen’s 2020 case study of the leadership of *Byron Johnson*, I kept returning to the phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In my experience, the vast majority of educators are motivated to enter the profession quite nobly. Overwhelmingly, teachers want to do something positive for society through their work. Unfortunately, a caring heart is insufficient in transformative approaches to education that center social justice. The radical care framework demonstrated through Johnson’s leadership combines the power of a caring heart and the application of hope and social/political strategy to enact material changes that influence students’ and teachers’ capacity for success. I appreciated the insight this article provided on Johnson’s reflective process to make it clear how he came to understand that his teachers needed more than encouragement from him and in fact needed material resources to successfully implement the vision for the school. When teachers were resisting pushes from Johnson to further tweak their teaching practices, Johnson initially responded by emphasizing his belief in their capacity to be successful. It was only after the meeting that he realized that he had to give his staff more than positive messaging and got to work assembling curriculum resources for them. Similarly, students need more than caring words of encouragement from their teachers. They need teachers who understand the material and structural realities that shape their students’ lives and provide meaningful support for them to achieve various academic and personal goals.

In a totally unrelated on-going conversation with myself, I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the notion of deservingness as it relates to students and access to different kinds of learning experiences. In a commodified education landscape, high-quality, safe opportunities for intellectual development are often positioned as luxuries. It’s a sore point and I need to find more productive words for exploring my ideas here.

1 thought on “The road to hell is paved with good intentions

  1. Jordan Bell

    I’m questioning and challenging this ide3a of teacher nobility. Like, how many teachers are equipped to really care for and about the students they are serving. I feel like there readings we’ve been exposed to in class highlight that many teachers are only focused on aesthetic caring, thus making caring a form of educational fungibility. And then, thinking about changing things or creating opportunities for students can also be a way of viewing students through a deficit lens. This care work has brought into question what teacher caring and teacher intentionality really mean.

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