Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreK-College

Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreK-College

by Karen Gross
Pub. Date:
Teachers College Press
Pub. Date:
Teachers College Press
Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreK-College

Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreK-College

by Karen Gross
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Recipient of the 2021 Delta Kappa Gamma Educators Book Award.

This book explores how educational institutions have failed to recognize and effectively address the symptoms of trauma in students of all ages. Given the prevalence of traumatic events in our world, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Gross argues that it is time for educational institutions and those who work within them to change their approaches and responses to traumatic symptoms that manifest in students in schools and colleges. These changes can alter how and what we teach, how we train teachers, how we structure our calendars and create our schedules, how we address student behavior and disciplinary issues, and how we design our physical space. Drawing on real-life examples and scenarios that will be familiar to educators, this resource provides concrete suggestions to assist institutions in becoming trauma-responsive environments, including replicable macro- and microchanges.

Book Features:

  • Focuses on trauma within the early childhood–adult educational pipeline.
  • Explains how trauma is often cumulative, with recent traumatic events often triggering a revival of traumatic symptomology from decades ago.
  • Provides clarifications of currently used terms and scoring systems and offers new and alternative approaches to identifying and ameliorating trauma.
  • Includes visual images to augment the descriptions in the text.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807764107
Publisher: Teachers College Press
Publication date: 06/19/2020
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 706,241
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Karen Gross is an author and educator as well as an advisor and consultant to nonprofit schools, organizations, and governments; instructor of continuing education at Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work; visiting professor at Bennington College; former president of Southern Vermont College; former senior policy advisor to the United States Department of Education; and author of the sidequel, Breakaway Learners: Strategies for Post-Secondary Success with At-Risk Students and the trauma-sensitive children’s book series, Lady Lucy’s Quest. Visit the Karen's website at

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Scope and Coverage xiv

Structure and Approach xv

A Trigger Warning xvii

Acknowledgments xviii

Part I Naming

1 What Is Trauma? 3

At Least We Can Agree That… 4

On These We Should Agree 5

The Word Itself 9

The Medical Definition 9

A Psychological Definition 10

Trauma and Traumatic Responses 10

A Flawed Distinction 12

An Alternate Approach 13

Definitional Diversity 15

A Definition for the Educational Context 17

Assessment Devices and Definitions of Trauma 17

ACEs 18

ACEs Caveats 19

Educators 20

2 Trauma in Action 23

Scenario 1 23

Scenario 2 24

Scenario 3 24

Small e Events 25

Small e Event Reactions 25

There Are Solutions 27

Transferred Trauma 29

Next Steps 30

What About Those Anniversaries? 31

Dealing with Trauma Anniversaries 32

Planning, Teachable Moments, and Control 33

Kent State and New York Law School 33

Some Lessons 35

Material Goods as Memorials 36

Tangible Evidence 36

Onward 38

3 Acute Symptomology Is Autonomic 39

First Appearances 39

Acute Symptomology 41

Nervous Systems 42

The Three Fs 43

The F Words 44

What Happens to Our Bodies? 46

The Autonomic Nervous System in Action 48

The Impact of Repetitive Acute Symptomology 50

Adult Physiological Responses 51

4 It's Actually Triphasic 53

The "Traditional" Delayed Divide 54

But There's More: Think Tri 57

Story 1 It Is Dark at Night 59

Story 2 A Change of Teachers 60

What the Stories Tell Us 61

5 Secondary and Vicarious Trauma 63

Concrete Exemplars 66

A Personal Story over Time 67

Part II Taming

6 Finding Solutions 77

Where and How to Begin 77

Benefits of Allostatic Load Lifting 80

Breakaway Learners, Baseball, and Trauma 81

Name It Then Tame It 83

Trauma Terms 85

Change Doesn't Have to Be Uniform 87

Change Won't Be Easy 88

Trauma Matters 89

7 Change on the Horizon 91

Lessons from Smoking and Civil Rights 91

Context Counts 92

Nine Factors Toward a Tipping Point 92

Pivoting Right 97

Who Isn't Responsible? 98

Who Is Responsible? 99

Finding the Trauma Lens 99

Collaboration? 101

Macro Change 101

Micro Change 102

The Six Ts and Breakaway Learners 103

8 The Trauma-Responsive School 105

A Caveat 105

Why Deconstructing the Ideal Is Key 106

The Ideal Trauma-Responsive School 108

The Five Ss 116

Values 122

9 Deconstruction I: Macro Changes 123

Space and Place 123

Play Table 126

The Role of the Educator and Secondary or Vicarious Trauma 127

Antifragmentation 130

Punishment and Discipline 131

The Center and Truth 134

Macro Changes and the Brain 136

10 Deconstruction II: Micro Changes 139

Transitions 139

Use of the Senses 145

Materials on the Walls 147

Rovers and Pop-Ups 149

Teams and Teamwork 151

Implementing Change 153

Part III Framing

11 What Is a Frame? 157

The Definition of Generation T 157

The Meaning of Generation T 159

Frames, Framing, and Framed 162

What Is Trauma's Frame? 163

Other Frames 164

The Generation T Frame 165

12 Conclusion: Having Hope 167

New Research 167

The Powerful Positives 168

Unanswered Questions 170

PCEs and Trauma-Responsive Institutions 171

The Need for Empiricism 175

Rising Tides 175

Endings and Beginnings 176

Notes 178

Further Readings 205

Index 207

About the Author 221

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Karen Gross has authored a remarkable book that paves the way for each of us to become trauma-responsive in our own lives and in the daily life and future of the schools, institutions, and communities in which we live and work. This book is both scholarly and practical, enabling us better to understand the research, evidence, and effects of trauma and the positive steps we can take to address its many impacts. She offers us extraordinary insights and solutions to build and sustain safe, thriving environments that can reduce both the frequency of traumatic incidents and traumatic stress on individuals and communities. The book is a treasure trove of ideas and strategies that teachers, parents, students, and leaders of any organization can leverage to make positive transformational changes across the nation.”
—Martha J. Kanter, Executive Director, College Promise Campaign; U.S. under secretary of education (2009–2013)

Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the School Door is a treasure trove of information on trauma as well as thoughtful recommendations for schools, from pre–K through college, to counteract negative consequences of trauma in their students. Both very readable and comprehensive, the book contains big picture solutions, like re-designed school layouts, and is a gold mine of practical ideas for any educator to lessen trauma’s effect on learning. Dr. Gross utilizes her own experiences and those of others to unfold a convincing scenario for more effective schools in our trauma-affected era. I heartily recommend this book to today’s colleges of teacher education, as well as educators everywhere.”
—Kathleen Ross, President Emeritus and Professor of Cross-Cultural Communication, Heritage University

“This book is highly recommended to all educators and administrators who are interested in understanding the association of trauma and the autonomic nervous system as well as exploring strategies on policy, program, and practice in trauma-responsive education. It is a book for the ‘Generation T’ in the context of our time. The book offers strategies for quieting the hyper-aroused stress response system.”
—Ed K.S. Wang, M.S., Psy.D., Massachusetts General Hospital

“Most educators right now only know that trauma exists. But we don’t know what it looks like, how it impacts students, or how to help students find a pathway through it. So our response is to do little or nothing about it. No more. With Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the School Door, Dr. Gross helps educators and student advocates become trauma-aware and charts a course for teachers and schools to become trauma-responsive.”
—G. Gill Hunter, professor, Eastern Kentucky University

“Karen Gross gives her readers perspectives and resources that should be added to every teacher’s toolbox in order to move beyond the delivery of content and become more cognizant of obstacles that can affect learners under their charge. A must-read for anyone that practices the art of teaching.”
—Ivan Figueroa, educational consultant

“Applying the principles from Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door to my work as a teacher in a trauma-sensitive elementary school has transformed the way I think, plan, and teach my learners. Karen Gross gives all educators the necessary tools to facilitate student success.”
—Allyson Hoffman, library media specialist, Molly Stark Elementary School, Bennington, VT

“Books about trauma often treat it as though it only happens to certain people in certain situations, such as living in a violent neighborhood or serving in a war. Gross asserts that many children and adults—far more than we know or count—have experienced some form of trauma. Because trauma in our society lives in the shadows, is rarely discussed, is often misunderstood, and is actively hidden, we often misread the sequelae of trauma. Karen Gross’ book offers a light in the darkness. If we apply her model to our learners’ recovery, we will not solve or eliminate COVID-induced trauma, but we will go a long way toward helping individuals heal, even as they re-learn and reclaim their resilience over time.”
—Marie A. Cini, chief strategy officer, ED2WORK

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