Teachers, so often criticised, are always heroes of the hour

A teacher hugs a child at Briarwood Elementary after a tornado destroyed the school in Oklahoma City
A teacher hugs a child at Briarwood Elementary after a tornado destroyed the school in Oklahoma City
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I knew if I was taken, all the babies would be gone too... The words of a battered and bruised school-teacher who went way beyond the call of duty on Monday.

Caught up in Oklahoma’s catastrophic tornado, which claimed an estimated 24 lives, she used her body as a human shield to protect pupils as the twister ripped through her school like it was made of matchsticks.

She was knocked out when a classroom wall fell on her, but every child survived. As she relived to TV cameras how she ‘held on for dear life’ to stop students from flying away, the hairs on the back of my neck literally stood on end and tears threatened to spring to my eyes.

There were many who showed such selfless heroism in the Oklahoma disaster. But the teachers at Briarwood Elementary captured my emotions. Another, also shielding her children was impaled through the leg. Others did their utmost to protect pupils, then carry them to safety. These are men and women are probably parents themselves. Their first thoughts should be to stay safe for the sake of their families. Yet when the chips are down, their instinct is to protect the children of others.

Every time some disaster befalls a school the teachers, life-shapers by profession, transform in the blink of an eye into life-savers. Remember in December, when shotgun-wielding Adam Lanza rampaged through a Connecticut elementary? Teachers hid children in cupboards and died barricading the doors.

Teaching is a calling for the caring, just as nursing is. Yet it’s a profession we are so swift to knock. We envy teachers their long holidays, their short working day and their pay and forget the weight of responsibility on their shoulders. Teachers become an extension of us the parents; we entrust our kids’ emotional and intellectual growth to them every school day and hope they would do exactly what we would do in a crisis.

Best remember that next time critics carp about teaching unions battling for pay.