This I Believe: All Are Welcome

I wonder what you think. You sit there so silently. You say you want to be more like me, but I want to be more like you. You make people feel good, always complimenting them.

“Ms. Joy, I want to be more like you.” That is what you said to me after I spoke passionately. You say you want to be more like me, but I want to be more like you. You are careful and thoughtful about what you say.

I believe there is one truth. An ultimate truth. I believe I should bring the truth into the classroom and share it with you. I believe I am to love and accept you, for you are significant. I believe my voice is a powerful tool in creating a place in which you can blossom. Some days I may struggle with you and I will not always like the things you choose to do, but I will always have a place for you. I will greet you by name and invite you into our place. I will be waiting with my arms open wide, ready to embrace you as you walk through the door.

The words slipped from my mouth. “I love you,” I said fervently.

With her eyebrows squeezed together, Arianna looked at me somewhat perplexed, “You love me?”

“Of course I do. I love all my students.” I replied nonchalantly.

Over the next months she would continue to ask again and again and again, “Mrs. Schulte, are you sure you love me?” Each time I reassured her of my love.

Then one day on her way into the gym, she paused and turned to me — tapped on my arm and said, “Do you really love me?”

“Yes, Arianna.” I smiled at her and watched her walk into the gym — then she quickly pivoted and ran back to me.

“I love you too,” she blurted out and then sprinted away. I can still hear her voice in my head. All I did was speak the truth.

My voice has the power to build up and the power to tear down. I believe I need to slow down and think before I speak, about the words I might say and the message they convey. There will be times when I will fail to listen, will grow impatient, and say or do the wrong things. Please remember to show me grace as I am human and will make mistakes.

I will never forget the day, as it was not one of my finer moments. George was sitting at his desk and I was trying to talk to him quietly and privately about his behavior, but he kept on interrupting me. Every time I tried to speak, he argued and spoke over me. I couldn’t get a word in.

Exasperated I said through clenched teeth and pursed lips, “Shut…Your…Mouth.” Disappointed in myself, I slowly walked away. Just like that I had silenced George. I was too prideful that day to say I was sorry. The next day I did what needed to be done. I apologized to George and his father who extended their grace. I believe I need to be careful and thoughtful about what I say. This is key to cultivating a classroom in which you feel welcomed and embraced.

At the end of the year, when you walk out that door, I hope you will be forever changed by the truth, an ultimate truth, that you are loved and accepted. There will be a place for you. The table is set and the door is open. It is an open invitation, for you are always welcome. In this world you will be rejected, silenced and experience pain. Don’t give up for with pain comes great joy. You know the truth, for the seed was planted in you long ago. I will always love you. And when I am old and answer the door, even if I have forgotten your name, know this, I know you. For you grew inside of me that school year, a mother never forgets. You will always be my child. The one I couldn’t have. The one I couldn’t bear. You were the one I desired and longed for. I have created a special place for you and carry you with me wherever I go for you are now a part of me. So thank you. Thank you for the beautiful gift you gave me, the gift of being a surrogate mother to you. I will always cherish and believe in you. Now go out and spread the truth, an ultimate truth. Each one of us belongs, is loved and welcomed.

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