The tornado warnings came just as school was ending Monday at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, Okla. Some teachers hustled children to a nearby shelter at a church. Others moved young students to hallways, the designated safe spaces within the school, and had them assume the duck-and-cover position — precisely as they had been trained to do.
When the monster twister, with winds approaching 200 mph, made a direct hit on the school, causing ceilings to collapse and walls to topple, it was teachers who used their bodies to shield children. After the tornado passed, it was teachers who provided the first hugs.
If anything positive came out of the heart-breaking tragedy in Oklahoma, it was the restoration of The Teacher as symbol of competence and caring.
Teachers have become scapegoats for politicians’ failings, the butt of bad jokes and even worse bumper stickers. Remember the tasteless, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”?
Teachers are too often targets of derision. The reason, many assert, for children who don’t meet our expectations. Their greed — and pensions — the cause of broken budgets. They’ve been portrayed as union-protected slackers. Uncaring. Disinterested. (It was just two weeks ago that a video of Duncanville, Texas, sophomore Jeff Bliss telling off a teacher became an instant Internet sensation. You have to wonder how that rant would play today.)
The teachers at Plaza Towers and Briarwood elementary schools — two schools destroyed by the EF4 tornado — made lies of all those demeaning stereotypes. In Moore, the label you are mostly likely to hear is hero.
On Monday, these teachers were the first first-responders. We will not soon forget tales of how they held students tight as the tornado’s winds tried to tear them away — nor the images of parents’ relief as they reunited with their children.
North Texans understand better than most the suffering felt by our neighbors in Oklahoma. Just last week, we lived the uncertainty and pain as twisters lashed the Granbury and Cleburne areas. And the day after the Moore disaster, we, too, were in the National Weather Service’s tornado warning box. Our hearts were in Moore, but our eyes were on our skies.
Today, let us not forget the teachers. Take the time to offer a word of thanks. Because those who teach … do so much more than that.
The Dallas Morning News