Beyond the Teaching of Academic Content

The national focus on student achievement has increased in recent years and meeting state standards has become the focus of many districts and schools. Although academic achievement is always a key issue, far too often we as educators forget to place a reasonable amount of focus on the non-academic issues that may be causing our students to fall behind academically.

Social, emotional and behavioral factors can contribute greatly to a student’s academic success or failure. Quite often we’ll look at a student with strong intellect and good academic skills who is not achieving at her expected academic level and believe this is happening by choice. We may say she’s lazy, unmotivated, not applying herself or other such statements that imply the underachievement is by choice.

The reality is many of our students, both younger and older, have experienced significant emotional trauma in their lives that seriously impacts their ability to access their intellect or academic skills to achieve at an expected level. Many times academic achievement is about the last thing these students are focused on, especially when personal trauma is ongoing.

As educators we need to be able to recognize when our students have or are suffering from traumatic events that seriously impact their ability to perform and find reasonable ways to help them deal with and ultimately overcome the trauma, emotion and stress that is deeply affecting them. The reality for these students is that academic achievement will never be a priority until they are able to successfully deal with their traumatic issues. In these instances our job as educators goes beyond the teaching of academic content. We need to help these students deal with life issues. Only then will they be able to achieve as expected.