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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 10. A Question About the Teachers Studied



“I’m a bit confused. Is it required that you have to put some of your own experience into this paper?” Janice asked.

“It’s very important. You see, we all have biases, and a good researcher make sure he or she acknowledges them, and takes them into account during the work in progress. It’s a bit easier with qualitative work, you know, working with numbers, but it should be done in all research.”

“I didn’t know …”

“Interestingly enough, I now look for biases in all research – not if it is there, but how it is acknowledged. It is impossible, I believe, to not have bias. It’s the human condition.”

“That sounds important in any study.”

“Yes. We also have to know our limitations, and about the context of whatever experience or situation we’re analyzing. I got a feeling for Melissa’s pain, but I still had to also see her as someone who is living in a bigger context in life, like as a mom, and a wife. Every factor affected her, as every factor affects you and me in our daily lives.”

“Wow. Thinking of all of the teachers who have witnessed school shootings, there must be a lot of factors to consider,” Janice said.

“Oh, yeah. It was rough honing everything down, because each story had so many unique components to it,” I responded.

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