How We Should Actually See — And Treat — At-Risk Students

"Define students by what they contribute, not what they lack."

We need to start seeing students not as "at-risk" but as "at-promise," according to Victor Rios. In his empowering TED Talk, he discusses how the education system can sometimes fail to keep these "at-risk" kids and how changing our perceptions can enable us to better help them.

The educator and author understands how important this is because he has studied these students for a decade. Plus, he was an inner-city youth himself who had to deal with street violence, crime, homelessness, and poverty. 

It was his teacher, Ms. Russ, who helped him when he was ready.

She saw Rios' potential and helped Rios get his credits, graduate with his class, and even get accepted to college. 


Talented high school students perform at a Maryland church. Pamela Au / Shutterstock, Inc.

From his experience, Rios is calling on other educators to be like Ms. Russ and change their attitude to help students:

"Define students by what they contribute, not what they lack."

He proposes three beneficial strategies: First, encourage these "at-promise" youth to share their stories of overcoming their situations, and emphasize how proud you are of them. 

Second, he suggests getting rid of education's "deficit perspective" and start thinking of students as empty containers to fill with knowledge. 

Lastly, educators need to provide adequate resources for students such as job counseling and mentoring.

As Rios says, "Let's believe in young people. Let's provide them the right kinds of resources. I'll tell you what my teacher did for me. She believed in me so much that she tricked me into believing in myself."

Check out the video below to see Rios' full TED Talk:


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