Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreK–College
reviewed by Laurie Inman - March 08, 2021
Title: Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreK–College
Author(s): Karen Gross
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807764108, Pages: 240, Year: 2020
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Trauma Doesnt Stop at the School Door: Strategies and Solutions for Educators, PreKCollege, by Karen Gross, offers educators at all levelsearly childhood education, K-12, colleges and universitiesan opportunity to examine their efforts at addressing and ameliorating trauma. From administrators and teachers to presidents and professors, Gross provides clear, authentic, measurable, and doable recommendations for systemic change.
To underscore the critical level that has been reached for addressing trauma in schools, Gross highlights two key events that occurred in 2019 at the Federal level. In April 2019, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a study in which they declared that Trauma is a widespread, harmful, and costly public health problem, and is especially detrimental to children (GAO, 2019, p.1). Subsequently in July, Federal legislators introduced the Trauma-Informed Schools Act (2019). Gross identifies these events as one of nine factors positioning the educational system to address trauma in all learning environments. Her book presents facts, figures, and personal examples to empower professionals working with students to become trauma-responsive. She deviates from similar books by offering an innovative school model with strategies that go beyond the best practices that are currently implemented in many classrooms and schools. She emphasizes the importance of sustaining the work over space and time, thereby changing the culture of our educational system and interrogating the assumptions adults make about childrens behaviors.
Grosss book is user-friendly and relatable. She provides supplemental resources throughout the book including her previous title, Breakaway Learners, which focuses on the successes of at-risk students who have developed what she terms lasticity (p. 16). Lasticity consists of five elements that facilitate and explain how students progress through the educational system despite barriers. She does this to demonstrate the contrast between those learners and the students described in this current book, and encourages readers to use them side by side.
Trauma Doesnt Stop at the School Door is organized into three parts, with each one focusing on a different segment of knowledge, understanding, and actions.
Part I (Chapters 15) alerts educators to trauma symptomology to increase their awareness about the impact of trauma on the students they serve. She approaches the topic with a comprehensible level of medical and neuroscience facts geared towards practitioners. The impacts of trauma are also addressed from a cognitive and epigenetic perspective to deepen the knowledge that informs practice. Gross states, If it makes teachers look at student behavior differently and ask the why question, then we will be making progress (p. 58).
Part II (Chapters 610) focuses on the need for changes that are institutional in nature and those that are smaller yet equally powerful in impact. Gross refers to these as macro and micro changes, and she presents examples for educators in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary environments. A significant point that Gross emphasizes in this section is that one size does not fit all. The context of the environment is everything, and we need personalized solutions that fit the communities where they are implemented (p. 88). Gross posits five core valuesstability, structure, safety, subtlety, and someone(s)that must be present in learning environments if the solutions are going to be viable. Gross further builds on these five core values by interweaving them with the values of trust, transparency, tranquility, tolerance, temperance, and teachers and teaching. With these 11 values in mind, Gross elucidates the ideal school model through keen, insightful descriptions of physical layout, learning structures, engagement designed for students and their families, opportunities to process current events, and a space that centers and provides balance for everyone who enters. Gross is to be commended for the provision of feasible solutions for schools determined to help the most vulnerable students, thus supporting not only students but also teachers who provide frontline care.
In Part III (Chapters 1112), Gross builds upon her recommendations of naming and taming trauma. This section focuses on framing it to enable readers to see and understand trauma and the deleterious impact it has on education outcomes. Just as previous generations from 1901 to the present have been named, she is calling this one Generation T. Gross defines Generation T as students, at any age and stage, who enrolled in our educational system from 2001 on and have experienced trauma and display trauma symptomology (p. 159). Gross further asserts that Pre-K to college students in this generation have experienced collective trauma characterized by 9/11, racial unrest, COVID-19, etc., in addition to other trauma occurring in their lives.
This book adds to the extant trauma literature by providing valuable and timely insights for addressing a critical need. As an educator, administrator, and one who researches trauma, this book is a priceless resource for any school professional seeking to reduce the negative outcomes associated with trauma on students lives. Importantly, Gross moves the definition of trauma to a shared focus of thought:
Trauma is any significant psychologically distressing experience including acts of omission and commission and regardless of whether these experiences are recognized by those who encounter them, occurring at any point or points in the life of a person that have the probability of disrupting his or her learning success and quality educational outcomes in an ongoing manner throughout the persons participation in the educational system. (p. 17)
Furthermore, by addressing the critical nature of secondary and vicarious trauma experienced by school personnel who work with students, Gross provides us with hope. She offers schools an opportunity to honestly assess their knowledge, understanding, and actions along with their policies, practices, and personnel to decide next steps for purposeful implementation of the realistic and authentic solutions that will help them begin or continue to address this crisis.
Gross has simplified one of the most complex systemic challenges of our times: to be intentionally trauma-responsive and change the course of students lives by changing the educational system.
Gross, K. (2017). Breakaway learners: Strategies for post-secondary success with at-risk students. Teachers College Press.
United States Government Accountability Office. (2019). Children affected by trauma: Selected states report various approaches and challenges to supporting children. https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/698684.pdf
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