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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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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.

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