The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 209

Jennifer Gonzalez, Host

GONZALEZ: My understanding of the word “trauma” has evolved over the last few years. It used to be limited to incidents that were objectively harmful and almost always severe, events that involved some kind of violence, like experiencing or directly witnessing a physical assault, or a tragedy of some sort — a natural disaster, vehicle collision, something that caused destruction or bodily harm. 

While these things still sit squarely under the trauma umbrella, that umbrella has expanded to include lots of other experiences that can have negative and long-lasting impact, things like neglect, emotional abuse, and harassment. While some lives are much more trauma-heavy than others, every life contains some degree of trauma, and it affects each of us differently. In fact, it is the way we process and experience certain events that defines how traumatic they are; two people may process the same episode quite differently, making it a traumatic event for one but a minor blip on the radar for the other. This broader definition does not water down the concept of trauma; it makes it universal. And this means it will show up for many, if not all, of our students, and for ourselves.

Making educational decisions with a sensitivity toward trauma — commonly referred to as trauma-informed education — has gotten more attention in recent years, and there’s a long list of reasons why, including the rise of childhood depression and anxiety, pandemic-related stressors, economic struggles, and a constant threat of gun violence, to name just a few. I’ve wanted to do an episode on this topic for a while, and I’ve found someone pretty incredible to help me do that.

My guest today, Alex Shevrin Venet, is someone whose work has dramatically expanded my own understanding of trauma-informed education, and my hope is that in sharing her approach with you, it will expand yours as well. Her 2021 book, Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education, is one I wish I’d had available to me before I started teaching; it would have made a world of difference in how I saw my students and designed my classroom practices. The book offers a holistic and nuanced exploration of what this work looks like in practice, and it does so with equity at the center: Students at the margins are often subjected to additional harm from systems of oppression built into all facets of our society, but these harms are not always considered in conversations about trauma-informed teaching. Venet ensures that while we are making schools safe, welcoming, and accessible for all students, we are doing so through the lens of equity, then taking that work further to make the systemic changes that will reduce harm for all students.

In today’s episode, Alex and I talk about what trauma-informed teaching looks like in practice, how some approaches to this work miss the mark, and how teachers can start applying the principles of good trauma-informed teaching right away.

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Now here’s my conversation with Alex Shevrin Venet about trauma-informed teaching.

GONZALEZ: Hi Alex, welcome to the podcast. 

VENET: Hi Jenn. It’s so great to be here.

GONZALEZ: We have a lot to talk about. I just got done reading your book and I’m a huge fan and I wish that I had read it before I was a teacher. So we’ve actually talked about doing three episodes, because I feel like there’s pieces of it that I want to pull out separately because they’re that important. So this is going to be the first of three. And so just to give my listeners a little bit of a background, what is your background in education and how did that lead you to writing this book?

VENET: Yeah, so I went to school to get my teaching license and everything and I thought I was going to go into public school. But I graduated into a recession and there weren’t a lot of public school jobs available at that time. So almost not intentionally, I ended up working at this small alternative therapeutic school which was really designed to support students who needed more social and emotional support all through their day than they were getting at public school. And it turned out to be a really happy accident because I absolutely loved it there. I worked there for many years, first as a teacher and then toward the end of my time there I was doing sort of a hybrid teacher-leader role doing some administrativy-type things while also teaching. 

And then toward the end of my time there I had done my master’s degree while teaching and I started meeting teachers from other places at conferences or, you know, going to EdCamps was really big at that time. And as I was talking to people about what we were doing in my little school around trauma, people were really interested and really hungry for strategies that they could use in more mainstream settings, and so I got really interested in helping to translate, you know, what’s going on in these kind of little pockets, little alternative programs out into other education settings. So when I left my school I started to teach other teachers — workshops, I teach classes, I also have taught in community college for a few years, I sometimes teach in after-school programming, but basically all of these different things around the idea of equity and trauma-informed education really just trying to bring that to other educators.

GONZALEZ: Got it. And so like you just said, there really has been an increased interest in the concept of trauma-informed education. It seems to have really increased since Covid especially. So we’re going to get into a lot more specifics later, but can we start with just a really basic definition of what you would consider to be trauma, and then trauma-informed education?

VENET: It’s funny anytime anyone asks for those basic definitions, because actually one of the really hard things in trauma-informed education and trauma in general is that there’s no agreed-upon definition for either of those things. Because so many different fields of study contribute to it and there’s a lot of different models and so these definitions are sort of what I’ve come to, but there’s a huge range out there of what this means. So trauma is individual and/or collective, so you can experience trauma as an individual person but also a community, a town, a society can also collectively experience trauma, and trauma is a response to life-threatening events, dangerous or harmful conditions, or a prolonged stressful environment. 

So you might think of trauma being caused by things like an act of violence or a natural disaster, and those can certainly cause trauma, but you could also think about something like, you know, living in a community where you’re constantly not accepted and experiencing microaggressions, and just that low-level stress over time has that same impact as maybe a one-time event or a similar impact. Trauma is also a response to something; it’s not the thing itself. And so every person might experience trauma differently or in different circumstances. And the impact of trauma can be really broad ranging. It can be physical, emotional, social, really, it’s about disrupting our core sense of safety, which then has all kinds of ripple effects. 

So then trauma-informed education, if you take that definition which really captures a lot of different layers, it means that trauma-informed education also has to have a definition that captures a lot of layers. So in my definition of trauma-informed education there’s three parts. The first is that schools need to respond to the impacts of trauma in our school community, meaning students and educators have experienced trauma, and so we want to make sure that the environment is sensitive to that, is responsive, they’re getting support, they are equitably accessing the school environment. 

The second piece is that trauma-informed schools disrupt things that cause trauma inside of school. Because sadly school does not have a magical bubble around it where trauma only happens outside the bubble but then inside the bubble, everything’s perfect. Because schools are full of people, and people can harm each other. And so schools need to look carefully at how might someone experience trauma here, and then how do we disrupt that from happening? How do we stop that from happening? So whether that’s attending to bullying and school culture, or making sure that people have the appropriate access to safe bathrooms, they’re being, you know, called the right names, all of those types of things.

And then the third piece is a little bit bigger, but I think really important, which is that trauma-informed education looks at school as a potential place of change in society for preventing trauma from occurring in the future, kind of disrupting cycles. So if we look at schools as places where students can learn, how can I disagree with people without harming them? How do I manage my emotions so that I’m not being cruel to others? How can I help to disrupt systems that are harming myself, in my community, or others that I care about? It’s sort of looking at school as an opportunity to practice all those things so that hopefully society is just less traumatic in the future, right? So school is a place of change.

GONZALEZ: That — we’re gonna, we’re gonna get into in a few minutes, sort of the misapplication or the limited application, I guess, of the idea of trauma-informed education. And so much of what you’re saying is going to lead into the prompts that I’m going to give you. But before we do, your specific approach to trauma-informed education adds a layer of equity that we haven’t necessarily seen in other literature, I guess, about trauma-informed education. So you really put equity at the center of your approach. So tell me more about this.

VENET: So like I mentioned, the school that I was teaching at was doing a lot of things around trauma and being trauma-informed, sort of before that was a buzzword in education. And so when I started to go out and train other teachers and teach about trauma-informed education, I was looking at a lot of different books and workshops and sort of trying to understand the field a little better in all the different models. And as I was reading through things, I was really struck by the fact that very few of the texts that I was reading about trauma-informed education really mentioned the idea that trauma is not equally distributed necessarily. You know, some people are put in harm’s way by our society because of systems of oppression, right? If you are a transgender teen, our society is putting you in harm’s way through all of these decisions that are being made right now around removing your access to healthcare, and banning you to be able to talk about your identity, or learn things in school about people in your community, right? Even though anyone can experience trauma, society makes it so that some people are more likely to experience trauma because of these harms. 

And then once you experience trauma, your access to resources can be limited by all those same things, right? If, you know, I had plenty of students who needed particular therapy or counseling, but their health insurance didn’t cover it, or they didn’t have the transportation to get there, or the only available therapist didn’t understand some of their identity or their background. And so equity issues are really woven into the experience of trauma. But then in education as well, a lot of the same things that we’re talking about when we look at equity work in school are the very same things that we’re talking about when we talk about being trauma-informed, you know, being caring, paying more attention to the humans that we all are, looking at our strengths. All of those things feel really similar. And so when I was formulating this model, it was really about how can we tie all this together and really see this work as intertwined, as opposed to “We have an equity committee over here, and a trauma committee over here,” and they’re not really talking to each other. You know, we can do so much better work if we’re doing it collectively.

GONZALEZ: Right. And so all that weaving is in your book and we’ll touch on these as we cover some of these other issues, or if you, if we’re talking about something and you see an opportunity to remind us of where the equity component is in all of that, please do. So as I was reading your book, there were some key sort of features that I noticed that you brought up, a lot of them had to do with the idea of trauma-informed education is this and not that. And so I’ve got just some statements that I thought I would just read to you and then you can go into some more detail about what they are. So the first one is, “Effective trauma-informed education is universal, not based on a label or a score.”

VENET: So that’s a great one to pick up this equity thread because, you know, you’ll see in a lot of resources on trauma-informed education this piece about an ACEs score or this ACEs survey, which some of you may have seen. It’s essentially a list of experiences in early childhood that may cause trauma but has really been turned into this checklist where you can find a score. And there’s kind of an alarming amount of emphasis on this score which is supposed to, you know, from a — if I read the intentions of those folks positively, it’s trying to help people recognize that early childhood adversity does impact us, and so if you’re mindful of those degrees of impact, you can support different students. But if we only base our trauma-informed practices on a narrow label like that, on a score, then we’re definitely going to miss some students who maybe the eight items on that checklist don’t represent, really hard and difficult things in their life. You know, for example, experiencing racism is not one of the ACEs on that checklist, and so that certainly causes trauma to a lot of people but it might not show up in a score. So if we only focus on who we think has experienced trauma then we’re missing people. And all of us are impacted by societal trauma and all of us may potentially experience trauma through our lives, I would say probably every single one of us will at some point, and so trauma-informed practices really have to be universal to capture everybody, to benefit everybody, and also to just transform the environment. It’s not about individual kids.

GONZALEZ: And you compare this actually to UDL, to universal design for learning, in terms of designing instruction so that it’s accessible to anybody, you don’t have to necessarily be differentiating for specific populations, and it would work the same way by just sort of designing a trauma-informed classroom?

VENET: Yes, trauma-informed practices should really be designed proactively and offer lots of access points. And you know one example would be if you were just thinking about basing your trauma-informed supports on a label or a score, then maybe you would look at, you know, which kid have we identified that has trauma, and then how do we provide supports for that kid? Whereas a more proactive and universal approach might be hey, what are the supports for mental health in our school and how do we destigmatize it so that actually a kid could self-refer themself into it? They don’t need to have somebody evaluate them or assess them or determine that they need it but the student themselves can say hey, I think I need some extra help and I know how to get it because my school makes a point of telling me who are all the people I can turn to. Is there a group, is there a place I can go, right? So when we really create the opportunity for people to get support for themselves, it’s very empowering.

GONZALEZ: Got it. and that almost leads into the next statement and it might actually be repetitive. The next statement is, “Effective trauma-informed education is proactive and not reactive.” And it sounds very similar to what you were just saying.

VENET: Yes, it’s the idea that we don’t want to wait until after a crisis to start implementing trauma-informed education, in part because all of us have already been through a variety of crises, right? Like COVID was a crisis, so there is no such thing as “before trauma impacts your school,” because it already has, and so we want to get started now. And again with individual students, even if you feel with some degree of certainty that a particular kid has not yet experienced trauma — although often we’re wrong about that — the best time to get them set up and supported and connected and, you know, understanding their emotions is before they go through something hard, because that’s part of what builds that resilience, so that maybe when they experience something difficult in the future, it’s not as destabilizing.

GONZALEZ: Got it. The next one is, “Effective trauma-informed education is asset-based, not deficit-based.”

VENET: So to be asset-based we have to walk this kind of tricky tightrope between two ideas that seem conflicting but they’re not really. One is that trauma really disrupts and harms people and causes some really disruptive things in our lives, right? If you go through trauma you can have trouble with memory, with emotional regulation, you can have physical challenges, a lot of kids have difficulties with things like outbursts or just engaging in the classroom when they go through trauma. And at the same time, having those difficulties does not mean that a kid is broken or irreparably damaged, or that they are somehow less capable because they’ve gone through trauma. And so the idea is of being asset-based is not to say, “Oh well, trauma, you know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “Kids are so resilient because they’ve gone through trauma.” It’s not about erasing the things that are difficult, but it’s about always staying grounded in this idea that even though things are difficult, you’re surviving and you are capable of learning and of healing and of growing, and we stay with students alongside them for that. So it’s really just about not letting the acknowledgement of what’s hard make us lose sight of the inherent strength of every kid and every teacher as well. You know, as we talk about all this I’m really trying to always say students and teachers because we can’t ignore that all of what we’re talking about with kids also impacts the adults. We’re going through trauma as well.

GONZALEZ: Yeah, and you do — for people listening, there is a whole section of the book about sort of leaders, school leaders, supporting their teachers and making sure that teacher wellness is also something that’s prioritized in a school if the whole thing is going to work. That’s an important piece of it. Speaking of that, the next statement is, “Trauma-informed education is a full ecosystem, not a list of strategies.”

VENET: So if we narrow down trauma-informed education to a list of strategies, often what happens is it backfires. For example, I was working with a teacher who had a student who often needed a break from class, but he didn’t really know always how to ask for a break from class. And so through her relationship with him, and they chatted a few times, they came up with this idea that when she saw him getting a little fidgety, she would give him this little signal — I forget what it was but let’s say she’d tug her ear at him or something, you know, just a little nonverbal cue that he could go take a break. And they had really built this trust between them. It was a trauma-informed strategy because when we recognize that trauma impacts our regulation, then breaks are really important, the empowerment to go take that is really helpful and just that kid feeling the support of his teacher.

So if I put that strategy on a checklist, that’s unfortunately kind of what happened to this kid, is that the teacher was sharing with one of her colleagues, “Oh here’s this thing I do with this student. It works really well so that he knows to go take a break and doesn’t end up kind of derailing the class.” Well the other teacher jumped the gun on this a little bit and said “Great, it works for you? Great strategy. I’m going to try it.” So without having that relationship or that trust with the student, the second teacher, you know, sees the kid getting a little antsy. He tugs his ear at the kid, and the kid blows up, right? You know, it completely backfires on him, because they didn’t have that relationship. They didn’t talk about that strategy. They hadn’t built a level of trust where the student felt like it was a supportive cue as opposed to he was being called out or something. And it damaged his relationship with the first teacher, right?


VENET: And so if I made you a list of strategies and it said, you know, use a nonverbal cue to remind a student to go take a break, that could be really powerful as it was for the first teacher, but it has to be situated in big ideas like trust building, relationship building, student empowerment, you know, kind of the philosophy behind trauma-informed education has to be part of it. And so then beyond those individual strategies, we also need to look at things like what support do the teachers have? Do they have the time to check in with the student, right? So it’s a whole ecosystem of strategies, philosophy, mindset, policies — it all has to go together.

GONZALEZ: The context really matters.


GONZALEZ: Ok. The next one is, “Trauma-informed education can be practiced by anyone, not just trained specialists.” And I think this is one that people come to you a lot with.

VENET: Yes. So what might be helpful here is to distinguish between trauma-informed and trauma-specific. So trauma-informed is really that holistic, whole-school, proactive approach; we’re changing the way that we respond to behavior, we are building in proactive supports, all of those things. Within that environment, some people need a trauma-specific approach. So maybe a student who has experienced something in particular and is working with a counselor outside of school or maybe even the school counselor, the school social worker. Maybe that student needs something particular from their teachers, like they need a content warning when there’s something particularly violent in the book that they’re reading in English, or maybe they get really overwhelmed by the noise in the hallway and so they need to leave 2 minutes early to just make it to their next class, those types of really specific things are usually developed by the student and then whoever their clinical support might be, whether that’s that counselor, that social worker, maybe somebody outside of school, maybe their family. And what’s important there is that that specific stuff, their specific unpacking of what their experience was, processing their trauma, that’s happening with people who are trained to do that. Whereas what the teachers are doing is really supporting their learning, and then if there’s something specific connected to that kid’s trauma experience, they’re just sort of taking direction from somebody else to say, let me play my part. So you’re not as a teacher ever going to be, you know, sitting with a kid for hours and helping them process, you know, when your mom is mean to you like that, how does it damage your self concept and what does that mean for your relationships, right? Like that goes outside of our boundaries as an educator. What you might be doing is instead, if a kid is bringing something up to you a few times, doing something like saying, “Hey, it sounds like this is really upsetting. Would you, would it be helpful if you could talk to somebody about this in more depth? Let me get you connected with the school counselor who can really help you out with that. And so we’re really not trying to investigate or be the expert on any particular kid’s trauma experience, but we’re collaborating with other people who can help them with that if they, if it’s something they need.

GONZALEZ: Got it. And you even sort of advise teachers to not ever put themselves in the role of “trauma detective,” where they have to — and it’s the phrase that you use — where they have to know all the details of a specific child’s history or background. It’s more about a general set of practices. And even you talked even about the professionals in the building just being able to communicate to each other vaguely about what a child’s situation is without giving away all the specifics.

VENET: Absolutely. You know, it’s the type of thing where maybe a student had something big going on over the weekend, and if the counselor comes to me and tells me every single detail of this really, you know, intense situation and all of this stuff, it actually might have the opposite effect that is intended. Because maybe I’m going to have a reaction to that. Maybe it’s going to upset me. Maybe I’m going to feel judgmental or it’s going to trigger something in me. And then at the end of the day, I can’t actually support my student because I’m really upset with all of what I heard about. Whereas if that counselor comes to me and says, “Hey, this student had a rough weekend. What she said that she needs from you today is that if she’s spacing out in class, if you could actually give her a reminder, because doing work would be really good and distracting for her today,” right? Then I have the context that something’s going on. I have what the student needs from me, but I don’t actually need to know all the details in order to show up well for the student that day.

GONZALEZ: Got it. So we’ve sort of talked a lot of, sort of “around” the idea of trauma-informed education, and what I would like to do is give people a little bit more of an idea of what it looks like in practice. And so one of the sections of the book that seemed like it hit on that a little bit more directly was you talked about these four priorities and that you recommend that teachers should keep these four priorities at the forefront of their minds whenever they’re making any kind of a decision about behavior or instruction or classroom or anything. So the four are predictability, flexibility, empowerment, and connection. So this is going to be our last question for this episode. So if you could just go into some detail about each one of those and sort of, what would it look like in practice, maybe give an example in a classroom.

VENET: Yeah, so a lot of resources on trauma-informed education will really emphasize the need for safety, and to me, “safety” feels really broad sometimes because how do we actually create a sense of safety? How do we make students feel safe rather than just saying hey, you’re safe in here, you know? And so these four priorities in a lot of ways are some core needs that people have in order to feel safe, especially when they’re impacted by trauma but all of us can really benefit as well. So predictability is one of those core safety needs because trauma really disrupts our sense that the world is a predictable place and also because we can feel dysregulated or have triggers that we are not really even consciously aware of, it makes us sometimes feel like even within your own body things aren’t predictable. And so when we can externally create predictability in the classroom like routines, schedules, prompts ahead of transitions, it really helps to just create that sense of routine and structure that we can kind of settle into to feel safe. Flexibility, although it might seem to be in tension with predictability, has to exist at the same time because trauma, because of that unpredictable nature, we sort of have to meet ourselves where we are and have others meet us where we are when going through trauma. You know I think back a lot to times when I’ve been going through a traumatic time or a really stressful time, and some days I really needed to, you know, have a checklist and get a bunch of stuff done and feel really busy, and other days I just wanted to watch like 16 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and eat popcorn, and both of those things at different times were actually what I needed, right? Sometimes you need to rest and sometimes you need to move forward. And so when we can be flexible with students and really recognize that the pace of school and the structure of school does not promote healing or wellness in a lot of ways, then infusing more predictability can really help to create that sense of safety, right? It’s that idea of, if I need to take it slower today, it’s not going to mess up everything about my experience at school.

GONZALEZ: Right. Right.

VENET: For empowerment, it’s not the idea just of, you know, feeling good kind of empowerment but actually having power and using it. Because trauma is disempowering; it really undermines our sense of control. It undermines our sense that other people care or, you know, see what we need and that you know, basically especially kids who go through trauma really develop this sense that what they want and need doesn’t matter. And so by creating environments that foster empowerment and really putting decision-making and choice and all these things in students’ hands, it really creates that sense of safety, that you’re in charge of you, you have a say over your learning environment, and your body, and when you go to the bathroom, and what you learn, and who gets to read your work, and all these things — that helps to create safety. And then finally and maybe most importantly, connection and relationships are really the ultimate potential for healing from trauma and also what helps buffer us from stress and trauma in the future. And so whatever we can do to create more relationships creates a safer environment. 

And so I’ll give you an example of how I kind of use all of these together. You know I say in the book, one really easy way to apply this is just when you’re making a choice about planning, you just run through these four. I put them in the, you know, context of questions in the book you can use. But then I also use it sometimes to problem-solve, like, What went wrong in this situation? So I’m teaching this after school class this year; it’s a fourth and fifth grade class and we were doing something at the, you know, there’s like 15 kids at a big table in a room that’s kind of a little too small for that many students…hashtag teacher problems.


VENET: You know, I have one student who seems to be really sensitive to noise and it’s a pretty noisy class, and so we were doing something at the whole table — I think maybe we were doing a check-in or something — and it was pretty loud. And she kind of made eye contact with me; I could see she was getting upset and I sort of, you know, tilted my head towards, there’s like a little bean bag area on the floor in the corner, and she went over there while we were all at the circle so that she could have some quiet. But then after she went over there, the kids at the table noticed that she went over there and started kind of, you know, like picking on her or saying to me like, “Hey, how come she gets to go over there and I can’t go over there?” And what ended up happening was it made everything worse because it got louder. And the conflict between her and her peers, which is part of I think what causes her discomfort, got worse. And so as I was reflecting on it I just went through these four priorities, right? So first I went to predictability, and immediately I went, that moment I could have proactively set up some options. I could have talked to the whole class about, “Hey if you ever need a break from class here’s what you can do.” I could have set up expectations about when are we at the table and when is it okay to go in the corner? If I had kind of set up those things predictably then the other students wouldn’t have questioned her, because they would have known what she was doing.


VENET: And maybe some of them would feel empowered if they needed to take a break. When I look at flexibility I think, okay, I was being flexible with her, but then when the other students said, “How come she gets to go over there. I don’t get to go over there?” I sort of went, “Because you don’t right now.” Right? Like I got in this reactive, controlling thing.


VENET: Because it was getting kind of chaotic. And so I was actually not really offering the same flexibility to everybody. When I think about empowerment, you know, again in that moment she kind of had to look at me and get some nonverbal permission to take that break. Again, if I had set things up proactively so that she was empowered to ask for what she needed or to just go take the break herself, if the other students felt empowered to do the same, again, we wouldn’t have had that kind of conflict, right? Whereas what I really felt in that moment was they were all looking to me to define the rules as opposed to looking to each other to say, “Hey, somebody in the room needs something. Let’s go back to our community agreements,” right? Like there wasn’t a sense of they owned the classroom. And then finally the connection in the relationship. I realized through reflecting on all of this that I really hadn’t helped these students build enough relationship with each other. And so even just a little moment like this exacerbated this conflict, whereas if I had been thinking about that connection proactively, I think we could have experienced a little more of maybe a supportive moment where someone instead of saying, you know, almost tattling on her, could have said, “Hey what’s wrong?” and “Can we help her?” And so that’s like a big fail moment for me, but maybe a learning example for everyone else.


VENET: Really when you proactively think through these four areas it doesn’t solve everything, right? But it almost always illuminates for me somewhere that I could have created an environment that was safer, that was emotionally safer, where students already experiencing trauma could feel more settled. Or where students just building that resilience in that community could experience just that safe and connected environment.

GONZALEZ: Right. And that’s such a common — I think that situation is one that so many teachers could relate to also and it’s, I think also a really good example of how this isn’t just about simple strategies. I could easily see somebody hearing about, oh have like a little, like you know, a little cool-down space in your classroom, and then that exact thing happens and they say it didn’t work. It just created more chaos. And so it’s such a good illustration of how this is a much more holistic, thoughtful, reflective, slow build as opposed to just “Try this and it’s going to work.”

VENET: Absolutely, and that reflection time is key to really think about how are we going to put those strategies into place in the context of all of this.

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So before we wrap up, if a teacher’s hearing this, and I realize that we’ve only touched on sort of the real surface of this, and I think teachers really would benefit from reading this book but I would like to hear from you. Why would it be worth a teacher’s time to delve into this a little bit more and get more well versed on trauma-informed education?

VENET: So one of the ways that people define trauma sometimes is that trauma disrupts our meaning-making, right? It’s that core sense of safety is violated and how we make sense of the world really shifts. And I think that we would be hard pressed to find any teacher today who doesn’t feel that their core sense of the work of teaching has been disrupted pretty seriously in the past few years, both by the collective trauma of the pandemic but then also all of the individual things that have happened to all of us in the past few years in connected ways. And so when we understand trauma better, when we understand what’s happening in our bodies, in our minds, in our communities, our relationships, it helps us to bring back some of that sense of meaning. And so on a very foundational level just for you as a person, understanding trauma better and how schools can relate in a world that’s traumatized to me just helps things make more sense, and it helps me kind of stay connected to this work. And then on a more practical level, I think that we’re all concerned about kids right now. I think that we all, we hurt when we see kids hurt. We hurt when we go into schools and we see the conflict and we see that kids are not okay, and we want to do better. And trauma-informed education is not a band-aid, and in particular the way I write about it is really that it’s a big messy project that will never be finished, but there are so many on-ramps. There’s a lot of little places we can get started and to me it feels very hopeful when I look at the big problem but then I say, if I can come at this in this more intentional way, through this framework, through understanding trauma, through seeing the ties with equity, through trying to just be more human in schools, it’s just some momentum. It’s a little way to get started on making change, even though I know that the much larger problems aren’t going to go away overnight. So I guess in both my answers there, it’s really about hope, right? It’s about bringing some hope to the work and some concrete ways to build that.

GONZALEZ: So the book is Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education. Alex Chevrin Venet. And Alex, where can people find you online if they want to learn more?

VENET: My website is and on there you’ll find links to all my various social medias as well.

GONZALEZ: All right. And we are going to, anybody listening to this, and if this is the first time they’re hearing you, they should know that we have 2 other episodes coming in the future. So there’s more to come. Thank you so much.

For links to Alex’s book and a full transcript of our conversation, visit, click Podcast, and choose episode 209. To get a bimonthly email about my newest blog posts, podcast episodes, courses and products, sign up for my mailing list at Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.