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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 9. A Question About the Study’s Focus



“Do people actually question whether or not we should help teachers who had to watch a school shooting?” Janice asked.

“I’m not sure, but I would guess there are people who think it’s not their problem …” I started, and Janice interrupted.

“When I think about what happened back then, and how they wouldn’t make changes in her job, or in her classroom, I get really angry. Why wouldn’t they change her room, or transfer her, or … or … just about anything?”

“Those are great questions, Janice … and I …”

“It was like they were totally unaware of what she was going through. Her friends could see she was struggling. Why couldn’t others?”

“I agree, Janice, and …” I started again.

“I’m sorry. I keep interrupting you. I just get so upset just thinking how it could have been done differently.”

“Don’t worry. I completely understand. I think chatting with Melissa, the first time we sat down and talked about her experience, before I started the study, made me realize I had to do this work. I saw how important this is – to get the word out.”

“So, you heard her story before you did the research?”

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