Last year at this time I was focussed on what God was speaking to me: ” move to Atlanta and trust Me.” A pretty simple message, but I struggled to believe the truth in it all. I remember trying hard to focus on my favorite part of the year: teaching poetry and Shakespeare. The end of the past 3 school years have been joyous occasions for me as this is the season I am usually able to teach what I am passionate about! Last year, though, in the midst of teaching my favorite drama (Romeo and Juliet) I received a phone call that altered the course of my life. I remember it vividly because it was the last day I saw my students last year, and it was the day my mother told me my grandfather Tabor had passed away.
How fitting to hear this news while I was behind my desk about to show my students the finished copy of the video we had shot the day prior. It was also the day I gave out my “End of the Year” Awards (Tabor’s Top Talents) and my gifts to each student. I started the day SO excited because my student and I had worked so hard to film our own modern version of Romeo and Juliet, and I had edited it over night and was finally going to be able to show it to them. Also, my end of the year gifts are always on point, so I was excited for each of them to read my personalized message and receive their award. What is really funny is that I didn’t want to give out the gifts last year. I didn’t think my students deserved them and I wasn’t really interested in spending time and money on people who hadn’t earned it. But God prompted me to work past all that and give to them out of His love. On this day, I found out that in giving away to my students, I had lost more than money or time: I had lost the very person who motivated me to be in the position I was in.
My grandfather, Louie Tabor, was an amazing man. I don’t have the proper words to express to you right how heavily he impacted my life. Every single time he came to our house, he would ask me to solve math problem and would also ask me what book I was reading, had just read, or was planning to read. I learned quickly that I better know my mathematic skills, and I better be reading something at all times. I adored his passion for education, and when I was faced with a decision on what to do with my own life, I realized that I wanted to experience the kind of drive and motivation I saw in him.
I became a teacher in 2006, and I remember talking to my grandfather and feeling very lost and frustrated. He always provided wisdom and encouragement, some of which I truly feel helped me survive that year. He was a humble man who knew more about life and literature than anyone I have yet to meet. I remember always wanting to impress him and wanting to make him happy(neither of which were ever hard to do). When I became a teacher, I remember hoping that I could in some way be as good a person as he was, and I often tried to incorporate his tactics in my own classroom (giving of candy, etc.)
What I have learned over the years is that I can never be my grandfather, and it’s comforting to know that God never made me to be him. God made me to be me. And this ME is still growing, still seeking, still learning every day. I have been fortunate enough to glean from a great man and to have been born into a family that instilled core values that many people don’t get. At the end of the day, however, I am myself, and as much as I want to be, I will never measure up to Lou Tabor, Sr. Fortunately, God isn’t measuring us by the same scale.
I am thinking of the passing of my grandfather this evening because I am, again, teaching a new class of 9th graders the famous Romeo and Juliet drama. I just watched the movie my students made last year and it brought me to tears as I remember all that I was going through about a year ago at this time. I was scared about moving to Atlanta, not knowing what would be ahead of me. I had lost a man I looked up to, and I didn’t know what that meant for my own future. And I was excited to see the enjoyment and wonder on the faces of my students as they discovered the true joy of learning. A veritable mixture of emotions, I think you could agree.
What I most remember though, in the midst of missing a great man, is the last conversation I was blessed enough to have with him about one year ago. I asked my grandfather is there was anything he regretted in his life, as I was personally struggling with the decision to move to a new city with no knowledge of anything but God’s will. He said something that I will never forget. “Dan, I regret not taking the chances I could have taken. I regret not going when I could have gone. I regret not doing what I felt lead to do.” He didn’t know it, but he spoke volumes to me that day. His words are forever ingrained in my mind.
So, why do I teach? I teach because I get no greater pleasure in this life than seeing an individual realize that enlightenment and education are satisfactory pleasures. I teach because God made me to do this very job, and my body cried out for it in a way that I can’t explain; it’s like I was physically made for that very setting! I teach because I get to run the show in the classroom, let’s be honest! Most importantly, I teach because one of the greatest men I have even known was a teacher, and it gives me great honor to know we share the same title.
I teacher….because….my hero taught. And that’s really a good enough answer for me.
Love you, grandpa Tabor!