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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 11. A Question About the Schools Studied



“You looked at the teachers, but did you do the same thing with the schools?” Janice asked.

“Of course. The schools, as organizations, play a big role in how things are handled.”

An Answer

The Response of the Administration

The Burke-Litwin Model suggests that organizational climate plays a major role in how a crisis affects members of an organization, and the organization itself. That model specifically lists security and fairness in terms of “purpose, values and how people (in and out of the organization, including customers) are treated” (Burke, 2010, p. 222). As an example, in Melissa’s case, many of her colleagues, her friends and support system, were transferred involuntarily to other schools. This administrative decision shattered the security and sense of support that could have been critical in the long-term healing of all school employees involved. In Mike’s school, in contrast, staff unity was encouraged through social gatherings.

Family and Social Connectedness

A number of studies have shown that connectedness is a critical factor in how a witness to trauma heals and recovers. Lawrence and Fauerbach indicate that there is “evidence that a sense of belonging or connectedness is the most important variable in mediating stress” (Lawrence & Fauerbach, 2003, p. 65). Other studies have pointed out that “the amount of social support received did predict the extent of PTSD symptoms” (Agaibi & Wilson, 2005, p. 205)...

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