Teaching After Witnessing a School Shooting

Echoes of Gunfire

by Edward Mooney, Jr. (Author)
©2021 Textbook XXII, 242 Pages


Imagine the hours and weeks after you've witnessed a school shooting. You run the emotional gamut between disorientation and severe anxiety. When you return to the classroom, you're unsure how to cope. Your classroom used to be a safe space; is it still? In this book, the experience of two teachers before, during and after they witnessed school shootings are analyzed to determine the effects of these incidents on their lives. In one case, a teacher who observed a shooting of one student by another, struggled with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her issues, along with actions by school administration, led to her psychological disability. In the second case, at a different school, another teacher watched a gunman randomly firing at students; he was able to continue teaching. A comparison helps to understand the psychological and organizational factors that affect educators who witnessed a school shooting.
This book would be critical in courses training school administrators, and for those teaching graduate research courses. In addition, this would be useful for mental health professionals and emergency responders seeking to get a glimpse into what teachers who witness school shootings are going through.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Author’s Note
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. A Question About Personal Experience
  • Chapter 2. A Question About Becoming a Teacher
  • Chapter 3. A Question About the History of School Shootings
  • Chapter 4. A Question About Severity
  • Chapter 5. A Question About Designing the Study
  • Chapter 6. A Question About People
  • Chapter 7. A Question About Violence Affecting Teachers
  • Chapter 8. A Question About Supporting Teachers
  • Chapter 9. A Question About the Study’s Focus
  • Chapter 10. A Question About the Teachers Studied
  • Chapter 11. A Question About the Schools Studied
  • Chapter 12. A Question About Working with Participants
  • Chapter 13. A Question About the Interviews and Data
  • Chapter 14. A Question About Checking Data
  • Chapter 15. A Question About Analyzing Data
  • Chapter 16. A Question About Coding
  • Chapter 17. A Question About Protecting Participants
  • Chapter 18. In Melissa’s Words
  • Chapter 19. In Mike’s Words
  • Chapter 20. A Question About Findings: Melissa
  • Chapter 21. A Question About Findings: Mike
  • Chapter 22. Contrasting the Two Teachers
  • Chapter 23. The Big Question
  • Chapter 24. What can Schools and Communities Do?
  • Chapter 25. Opportunities for Other Research
  • Chapter 26. Reflecting
  • Chapter 27. The Last Time I Saw Melissa
  • Chapter 28. The Call Ends
  • Epilog
  • Suggested Reading
  • Index

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Figure 1:The relationship between the constructs.

Figure 2:Teacher Able’s Trauma Recovery Index scoring.

Figure 3:Teacher Baker’s Trauma Recovery Index scoring.

Figure 4:Job modifications worksheet.

←xiii | xv→


So, why did I write this book? Some readers may wonder about that – and guess at my motivations. So, right up front, I’ll spell it out. My hope is that everyone who reads this will be prepared to assist future teachers who will witness a school shooting, even if that means only to understand and empathize. It is my hope that this will not be necessary – that society will find a solution to this bane on our way of life – but I want us to be prepared in case that time is in the distant future.

The source material serving as the foundation of this book comes from my dissertation, which earned me, along with the requisite coursework, the degree of Doctor of Education from Northeastern University in Boston. As you’ll discover, I spoke to a number of teachers who had to experience a shooting. I realized that the general public needs to understand what they deal with – for years after the incident.

I was asked to re-work that paper, creating a book for the general public outlining the effects of teachers witnessing a school shooting. I was immediately confronted with the difficult task of “translating” an academic paper into a readable “story,” if you will. I struggled for some time to find a system that would allow the story to “flow.”

←xv | xvi→

One day, as I was wrestling with yet another framework, I received a phone call asking about some aspect of school shootings. I’ve handled quite a number of those over the years. After answering, and as I hung up, an idea came to mind. I saw that conversation as an entryway that would allow me to craft the narrative – I would be having a conversation with the reader, as I had just done over the phone. So, as you read, imagine that you and I are having a discussion about this topic – and I’m answering your questions.

Janice is a composite of a number of people I’ve spoken with over the years, and not a real person. She serves a valuable purpose as a guide to understanding this research. As I worked through the manuscript, I found myself recalling quite a number of phone calls and email messages – on all aspects of my research, from a variety of sources. I made the decision, for clarity, to combine many of these messages and calls into one conversation. So, while the material in this book is based on research, the frame around it, that of a conversation with one person, is a construct designed to move the reader between sections of the work.

Beyond the effects of witnessing a school shooting, it’s also my hope that the reader can gain some insight into how a dissertation is prepared, and the work behind the final document. How this research came to be was, in itself, quite a story.

←xvi | xvii→


While this work has been designed to read straight through, with a background narrative – a plot, if you will – the book has also been designed to serve as a reference, of sorts. Each chapter, or “question,” can serve as a source of material for discussion or further research. At the end of the main text, there is a listing of suggested readings, taken form the dissertation.

In addition, it was the intention of the author to maintain a feeling of a dissertation in this work, in order for those who teach research methodologies to connect the methodology to the realities of the research journey. In a way, Janice’s questions were also the questions the author dealt with while teaching such a course. It’s hoped that this “interweaving” of a story-like dialog with actual text from a research project will allow those on their own projects to elate to the struggle behind accomplishing this sort of thing.

←xvii | xix→


I believe it is important that the reader knows that there were many emotionally challenging days as I completed the research that serves as the foundation of this book. The overwhelming struggles that the teachers I interviewed wrestled with reverberated within me. As difficult as it was for me to hear their painful stories, as I struggled with a lesser trauma, I came to realize that these professionals are carrying a burden far more difficult. I acknowledge all teachers who are forced to witness a school shooting. I wrote this book because I believe your stories need to be heard. I acknowledge how much your sharing was difficult, yet you felt the sharing was worth it, if it could help others.

Working with me, through those difficult days, were a number of people who encouraged, believed, and assisted in so many ways. I want to acknowledge my committee members and professors at Northeastern University in Boston: Doctors Krystal Clemons, Lynda Beltz, Ray McCarthy, Jennifer O’Connor, Karen Reiss Medwed, Margaret Dougherty, Claire Jackson, and, from the University of Portland, Jacqueline Waggoner. One person in particular provided great emotional encouragement – and editing: Caroline Houtz Mooney. She was there for me through it all.

The threads of all of the insight, encouragement and support from these people are woven into the lines and pages of this book. Thank you.

←xix | xxi→


After more than a quarter of a century of service as a high school teacher, Edward Mooney, Ed.D., moved to working as a professor of teacher education. His specialties include educational psychology, instructional methods, research methods and online teaching; in addition, he has supervised a number of student teachers in his newest role. As of this writing, he teaches online at Chadron State College, in Chadron, Nebraska.

As the reader will discover, Edward grew up as an “at-risk” student. Over the years of his childhood, his father descended into the depths of alcoholism, and became abusive, physically and emotionally. A few teachers in high school gave him direction and support, well beyond the curriculum, and awakened him to the power of teachers to change lives.

As he went through college, at Montana State University (B.S.), and the University of California, Riverside (M.A.), he found himself with a number of opportunities to teach a seminar or a class. After those years, he worked as a teacher of computers for Digital Equipment Corporation, where he truly realized how much teaching meant to him. He signed up for night classes and earned his teaching licenses (secondary science and social studies, and multiple subjects) at Chapman University.

←xxi | xxii→

Edward has an assortment of outside interests, including vexillology (the study of flags), creative writing, gardening, collecting maps, and camping. He enjoys world cultures, languages, and the study of geology. One of his greatest joys is his family – he’s very proud of his five children and six grandchildren.

←xxii | 1→


For the last two years, I’ve been searching for an old friend – her name is Melissa. I tried every method possible, short of hiring a private detective. I made numerous phone calls, and sent dozens of email messages. I searched online. I even pulled out my old research notes, and found the list of people that I had worked with during my project. I sent messages via social media, such as Facebook – but I got no responses. It didn’t seem possible that I couldn’t find anyone who knew how to contact her. I was perplexed.

In despair, I closed the research folder on my computer. I felt like I was at a dead end. The phone range as I was staring at the papers outlining a book on witnessing school shootings.

I felt some hope when I heard the name of my caller – she was a teacher who had been at the school where Michelle taught – on that fateful day. I had spoken to her once. Janice sounded the same. I told her I wanted to reconnect with Melissa, as I knew a difficult anniversary was coming – it had been ten years since she witnessed the shooting at her school. I wanted to see how she was doing.

Janice informed me that she didn’t know where she was, but she’d try to get a message to her, with my contact information. After a pause, I had to ask the question.

←1 | 2→

“You don’t know where she is? I remember you two were pretty close.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t,” she replied. There was another moment of silence.

“Oh …” I was at a loss for words.

“Things changed a lot since you did your research, and not for the better for her,” she continued.

“I’m really sorry to hear that …” I trailed off as I struggled with a strong sense of sadness. An uncomfortable silence followed as I looked up at the top of the wall and tried to think of something to say. Fortunately, Janice spoke up.

“Here, I have a pen and some paper. Why don’t you give me your email address and phone number? Well, I have your number.”

I gave her my contact information, and was thanking her as I lowered the phone to the receiver. I heard a muffled sound from the phone, and brought it back to my ear.

“Janice?” I asked quietly.

“Yeah … I uh … well …” Her voiced faded.

“Are you okay?” Concern welled up inside.

“I guess. I don’t know.”

“What’s going on? I’m listening.”

“Talking with you voice brought back memories.” Janice’s voice seemed to have more emotion in it.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want that. I don’t …” I felt a bit low.

“No, no. Really, it’s okay. Maybe it’s a good thing that I called. So much has changed since that day years ago. It isn’t good.” Janice interrupted me.


XXII, 242
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XXII, 242 pp., 4 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Edward Mooney, Jr. (Author)

Edward Mooney, Jr., holds the degree of Doctor of Education from Northeastern University (Boston). Formerly a high school teacher, Dr. Mooney is a professor in teacher preparation programs. He has taught at Simpson University (California) and Chadron State College. He was the 2010 DAR California State Teacher of the Year.


Title: Teaching After Witnessing a School Shooting
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266 pages