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Teaching After Witnessing a School Shooting

Echoes of Gunfire

Edward Mooney, Jr.

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.

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Author’s Note


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.”

One day, as I was wrestling with yet another framework, I received a phone call asking about some aspect of...

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