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At-Risk or At-Promise?

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I am one of those people who dreads educational jargon. It has a way of turning attention away from problems, masking the issues that really matter, and simply confusing even intelligent readers.

So I am always on the lookout for the latest jargon in the student motivation world. And I ran across one recently that seems to be the work of people who have way too much time on their hands and who are way too obsessed with self-esteem.

It is the "3rd Annual Reaching At-Promise Students National Conference."

Not at-risk, but at-promise. The at-risk label was pretty bad on the jargonometer. But this one takes the cake for caving in to the zealots in the self-esteem movement.

Or am I being a little too mean-spirited here? Is at-promise a label worth preserving?

8 Comments

that's just insane!

O fcourse it's worth perserving. We need to start addressing our issues in a more positve light.......didn't you watch THE Secret???

Thank-you for saying what no one else has the nerve to say! I am so tired of platitudes and bromides when there are so many creative, attention-grabbing motivation methods out there being ignored. Some of the most potent are on our site. Here's a great place to see some of them to test how well they work with at risk students.
http://www.youthchg.com/nws3moti.html There are hundreds more throughout site too.

I agree that such jargon can be frustrating and distracting. However, jargon can be helpful if it conveys a unified understanding of what it was originally coined to represent. Initially, jargon is used to simplify and streamline communication. The problem arises when it is misused or used outside of it's intended context or audience. This is when it becomes exclusionary and troublesome. Also, jargon is so often misused, that it's intended meaning becomes diluted and only frustrates and confuses. I feel that jargon, like acronyms, has a place and purpose, but only if used properly and in the appropriate context. Having said that, I feel that focusing on assets, strengths, and potential is a much better way to approach our children's motivation and education. This does not mean that deficits, weaknesses, or problems should be overlooked, but maybe their importance should be secondary or at least be dealt with simultaneously.

Actually, I really like "at-promise." I think the term could be seen as relevant considering that these kids have never been given a chance - with the caveat that this term is only applied to the most at-risk segments of our student population that are frequently thrown away in the eyes of administrators and teachers. In a way, at-risk makes assumption that these students are almost out the door anyway so why waste too many resources on them. I think at-promise could help create a more positive school climate when dealing with struggling students. Just my opinion…

In reality, aren't ALL children 'at risk' of falling through the cracks, not being encouraged to learn, grow etc? The problem I see is that so many teachers aren't interested in trying new ways to reach students, and whether they're technically at risk or not they are all at risk of being turned off of education due in part to teachers like that.

While I understand, appreciate and support the premise of the term "at-promise", it doesn't flow well, especially when used with another word such as children or youth. I think that it sounds ridiculous - actully stupid. If there needs to be a label of some sort that puts a positive spin and focuses on the ability or potential to succeed rather than falling through the cracks, I don't think this one is it. But I can't think of another one right now although I'm sure someone will. This is like the debate between "best practices" and "promising practices".

The language sometimes seems silly, but it is "telling". Words like "at-risk", "minority", and paying attention to race, when it is really social class and income that influence the differences, are all discouraging to the self-esteem of the students, parents, and teachers involved. We need to focus on positive language as one of the ways to convince students that they can take control of their own lives. I have seen this happen.

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  • Suzanne L: The language sometimes seems silly, but it is "telling". Words read more
  • Linda: While I understand, appreciate and support the premise of the read more
  • jenj: In reality, aren't ALL children 'at risk' of falling through read more
  • P Rivers: Actually, I really like "at-promise." I think the term could read more
  • T Hanson: I agree that such jargon can be frustrating and distracting. read more

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