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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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Chapter 4. A Question About Severity

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· 4 · A QUESTION ABOUT SEVERITY

“Oh, my! That’s overwhelming. It’s not just about how long this has gone on, but how it’s rooted in a wider societal problem,” Janice exclaimed.

“The more I read, dug into it and thought about it, the more I saw that we have to place school shootings in a context, in the system of our society. This is not happening just out of magical thin air,” I responded.

“I think I can see that. As a teacher, I’ve seen kids coming to school from broken homes, homes with no medical care, homes, with alcoholic parents.”

“Every year that I taught Id’ thought I’d seen or heard of it all. The next year the last ‘biggest family nightmare’ would get topped, or so it seemed to me.”

“That’s what my experience tells me, too,” Janice said enthusiastically.

“I remember kids who lived in their friend’s garage, sleeping in the back seat of unused cars.”

“I had a little girl tell me once that her family was living in a backyard shed on a property her uncle owned,” Janice sighed.

“And I once watched a physical education teacher walk a high school boy through how to take a shower.”

“No way!”

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