Memo From Michael: Teachers and Tornadoes

Once I got past the awe of witnessing Mother Nature’s astonishing power to wreak devastation in Oklahoma, I was awed by something more positive and uplifting: the instinctive capacity of our species to care about, come to the aid of, and — for those caught in the middle of the calamity — to even sacrifice their own lives for others.

Every day we are surrounded by examples of the dark side of human nature — selfishness, greed, dishonesty and cruelty — which make it hard to resist cynicism. It’s a pity that it often takes a disaster and the heroic actions it evokes to provide compelling contrary evidence, to remind us of the best in human nature.

How can one resist tears hearing of the teachers in Oklahoma who put themselves at risk by shielding children with their own bodies? I suspect lots of other adults would have reacted in a similar fashion, but I think teachers really are special.

With the current focus on competence and accountability in education, we tend to undervalue one of the most important qualities of most teachers: their genuine sense of responsibility and affection for the children they teach.

Over and over we’ve seen the powerful instinct of teachers to protect children in school shootings and, more recently, in the horrific tornadoes.

Teachers willingly and without hesitation treated children as their own and put themselves at risk to protect them.

It should be a comfort to parents to know how much teachers really care.

Henry Adams once said, “Teachers affect all eternity. You never know where their influence stops.” He was referring to the way they shape lives by transmitting information and learning skills, but teachers often do so much more. Though only rarely called upon to risk their lives, they regularly touch the lives of students with their commitment and love.

It’s been said that kids don’t care what you know unless they know that you care. Let’s do all we can to commend, congratulate and celebrate teachers who show how much they care.

What else can you do? Read How to Help the Oklahoma Tornado Victims in our Character Educator blog.

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