Some are calling them heroes. The teachers in Moore, Okla. insist they were just doing their jobs.
But one thing is for certain: the teachers who risked their own lives to protect the children in their care as a devastating tornado ripped the roofs off of their schools were being leaders. In tale after heart-wrenching tale, they exhibited courage in the most terrifying of circumstances, calmed the fears of those around them, and put the needs of the people in their charge before their own. I can't think of a better way to describe a leader.
There are the stories of Rhonda Crosswhite and Jennifer Doan, who used their bodies as shields. There's the unnamed teacher who was reportedly underneath a car, shielding three students beneath her. And then there's Tammy Glasgow, who told her students she loved them and had them play their musical instruments throughout the storm as loud as they could, maybe in hopes they could drive away the fear of the storm.
We rightfully complain about how rarely our children see examples of good leadership. Our elected representatives are more interested in partisan bickering and political obfuscation than in fixing our problems. Our business leaders are rewarded with obscene compensation for poor performance and all too often put profits ahead of the greater good. And in too many cases, people in positions of power over children, from coaches to the clergy, fail the young minds they've been charged with leading.
They may not hold lofty titles, and they certainly don't take home executive-sized pay, but these Oklahoma teachers—especially those in Moore and Sandy Hook and Taft—showed their students on Monday that real leaders are right there in their midst.
Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.