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  • For over a decade,

  • I have studied young people that have been pushed out of school,

  • so called "dropouts."

  • As they end up failed by the education system,

  • they're on the streets where they're vulnerable to violence,

  • police harassment,

  • police brutality

  • and incarceration.

  • I follow these young people for years at a time,

  • across institutional settings,

  • to try to understand what some of us call the "school-to-prison pipeline."

  • When you look at a picture like this,

  • of young people who are in my study ...

  • you might see trouble.

  • I mean one of the boys has a bottle of liquor in his hand,

  • he's 14 years old

  • and it's a school day.

  • Other people, when they see this picture,

  • might see gangs,

  • thugs, delinquents --

  • criminals.

  • But I see it different.

  • I see these young people through a perspective

  • that looks at the assets that they bring to the education system.

  • So will you join me in changing the way we label young people

  • from "at-risk" to "at-promise?"

  • (Applause)

  • How do I know that these young people

  • have the potential and the promise to change?

  • I know this because I am one of them.

  • You see, I grew up in dire poverty in the inner city,

  • without a father --

  • he abandoned me before I was even born.

  • We were on welfare,

  • sometimes homeless,

  • many times hungry.

  • By the time I was 15 years old,

  • I had been incarcerated in juvy three times for three felonies.

  • My best friend had already been killed.

  • And soon after,

  • while I'm standing next to my uncle,

  • he gets shot.

  • And as I'm waiting for the ambulance to arrive

  • for over an hour ...

  • he bleeds to death on the street.

  • I had lost faith and hope in the world,

  • and I had given up on the system because the system had failed me.

  • I had nothing to offer

  • and no one had anything to offer me.

  • I was fatalistic.

  • I didn't even think I could make it to my 18th birthday.

  • The reason I'm here today

  • is because a teacher that cared reached out

  • and managed to tap into my soul.

  • This teacher,

  • Ms. Russ ...

  • she was the kind of teacher that was always in your business.

  • (Laughter)

  • She was the kind of teacher that was like,

  • "Victor, I'm here for you whenever you're ready."

  • (Laughter)

  • I wasn't ready.

  • But she understood one basic principle about young people like me.

  • We're like oysters.

  • We're only going to open up when we're ready,

  • and if you're not there when we're ready,

  • we're going to clam back up.

  • Ms. Russ was there for me.

  • She was culturally relevant,

  • she respected my community, my people, my family.

  • I told her a story about my Uncle Ruben.

  • He would take me to work with him because I was broke,

  • and he knew I needed some money.

  • He collected glass bottles for a living.

  • Four in the morning on a school day,

  • we'd throw the glass bottles in the back of his van,

  • and the bottles would break.

  • And my hands and arms would start to bleed

  • and my tennis shoes and pants would get all bloody.

  • And I was terrified and in pain, and I would stop working.

  • And my uncle, he would look me in the eyes and he would say to me,

  • "Mijo,

  • estamos buscando vida."

  • "We're searching for a better life,

  • we're trying to make something out of nothing."

  • Ms. Russ listened to my story,

  • welcomed it into the classroom and said,

  • "Victor, this is your power.

  • This is your potential.

  • Your family, your culture, your community have taught you a hard-work ethic

  • and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world

  • so you can come back and empower your community."

  • With Ms. Russ's help,

  • I ended up returning to school.

  • I even finished my credits on time

  • and graduated with my class.

  • (Applause)

  • But Ms. Russ said to me right before graduation,

  • "Victor, I'm so proud of you.

  • I knew you could do it.

  • Now it's time to go to college."

  • (Laughter)

  • College, me?

  • Man, what is this teacher smoking thinking I'm going to college?

  • I applied with the mentors and support she provided,

  • got a letter of acceptance,

  • and one of the paragraphs read,

  • "You've been admitted under probationary status."

  • I said, "Probation? I'm already on probation,

  • that don't matter?"

  • (Laughter)

  • It was academic probation, not criminal probation.

  • But what do teachers like Ms. Russ do to succeed with young people

  • like the ones I study?

  • I propose three strategies.

  • The first:

  • let's get rid of our deficit perspective in education.

  • "These people come from a culture of violence,

  • a culture of poverty.

  • These people are at-risk; these people are truant.

  • These people are empty containers for us to fill with knowledge.

  • They have the problems,

  • we have the solutions."

  • Number two.

  • Let's value the stories that young people bring to the schoolhouse.

  • Their stories of overcoming insurmountable odds are so powerful.

  • And I know you know some of these stories.

  • These very same stories and experiences

  • already have grit, character and resilience in them.

  • So let's help young people refine those stories.

  • Let's help them be proud of who they are,

  • because our education system welcomes their families, their cultures,

  • their communities

  • and the skill set they've learned to survive.

  • And of course the third strategy being the most important:

  • resources.

  • We have to provide adequate resources to young people.

  • Grit alone isn't going to cut it.

  • You can sit there and tell me all you want,

  • "Hey man, pick yourself up by the bootstraps."

  • But if I was born without any straps on my boots --

  • (Laughter)

  • How am I supposed to pick myself up?

  • (Applause)

  • Job training,

  • mentoring,

  • counseling ...

  • Teaching young people to learn from their mistakes

  • instead of criminalizing them,

  • and dragging them out of their classrooms like animals.

  • How about this?

  • I propose that we implement restorative justice in every high school in America.

  • (Applause)

  • So we went out to test these ideas in the community of Watts in LA

  • with 40 young people that had been pushed out of school.

  • William was one of them.

  • William was the kind of kid that had been given every label.

  • He had dropped out, he was a gang member,

  • a criminal.

  • And when we met him he was very resistant.

  • But I remember what Ms. Russ used to say.

  • "Hey, I'm here for you whenever you're ready."

  • (Laughter)

  • So over time --

  • over time he began to open up.

  • And I remember the day that he made the switch.

  • We were in a large group

  • and a young lady in our program was crying

  • because she told us her powerful story

  • of her dad being killed

  • and then his body being shown in the newspaper the next day.

  • And as she's crying, I don't know what to do,

  • so I give her her space,

  • and William had enough.

  • He slammed his hands on the desk and he said,

  • "Hey, everybody! Group hug! Group hug!"

  • (Applause)

  • This young lady's tears and pain turned into joy and laughter

  • knowing that her community had her back,

  • and William had now learned that he did have a purpose in life:

  • to help to heal the souls of people in his own community.

  • He told us his story.

  • We refined his story

  • to go from being the story of a victim to being the story of a survivor

  • that has overcome adversity.

  • We placed high value on it.

  • William went on to finish high school,

  • get his security guard certificate to become a security guard,

  • and is now working at a local school district.

  • (Applause)

  • Ms. Russ's mantra --

  • her mantra was always,

  • "when you teach to the heart, the mind will follow."

  • The great writer Khalil Gibran says,

  • "Out of suffering have emerged the greatest souls.

  • The massive characters are seared with scars."

  • I believe that in this education revolution that we're talking about

  • we need to invite the souls of the young people that we work with,

  • and once they're able to refine --

  • identify their grit, resilience and character

  • that they've already developed --

  • their academic performance will improve.

  • 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.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

For over a decade,

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【TED】Victor Rios: Help for kids the education system ignores (Help for kids the education system ignores | Victor Rios)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/11/03
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