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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 22. Contrasting the Two Teachers



“This is overwhelming. So many similarities and differences. Can you summarize them?” Janice asked.

“Of course. Let’s summarize using my research questions as a framework …” I started.

An Answer

Two Teachers: Contrasts

To understand the effects of witnessing a school shooting, the differences between the two cases should be explored. These were not “duplicate” teachers working in the same environment.

The Teachers and Their Schools

Mike and Melissa were both teachers, but they were in different places in life when the incidents occurred. One was a new mother; the other already had children in the midst of growing up. Mike was considering retirement while Melissa considered herself to be in the earlier stages of her career. One had a contributing psychological issue, while the other did not.

Mike worked in a school with a very different socioeconomic description from Melissa. They dealt with different class sizes, as prescribed by their districts and state funding. Melissa’s school was an older facility while Mike’s offered more amenities, such as an electronic lockdown system.

Research Question 1: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

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