Embracing Details for My 2023 Graduates

Last August a group of kids walked into my classroom in the EGHS library. I’m not sure if they had heard warnings from previous students or if they just had a good sense about them, but they were quiet, open to direction, and hard workers beginning on day one. Their eyes widened a bit when they looked at the syllabus for ENGL 111. Starting on that first day, I told them that even though everyone else called them “the seniors,” they were still only juniors with their summer tan for my class. The moniker of being the oldest and wisest students would be earned a few weeks later when we fully dug into the readings, analysis tools, and writing techniques for the critique assignment. In their own time, they all reached the point of truly being high school seniors. I welcomed them into their senior selves with open arms. 

By this point, they actually paid attention to grammar rules. They were learning how to insert quotes and write reference citations using APA formatting. Bless their hearts, they were completing annotations and prewriting like never before. As they began to realize how the whole process worked, they were soon complaining because I made them stay under a four-page limit for a paper, and they “needed” more room! These babies of mine were maturing and growing as thinkers and writers. Just like the students I’ve been blessed with for years, these kids made me think and plan to stay ahead of them. 

During our first weeks of school, they were also learning to juggle being athletic and student body leaders while they met all of their coursework deadlines. These students did not slack on their course selection, and they all carried heavy loads of dual-credit, AP, and advanced classes. Then, they started to think about their future. They thought, planned, thought again, researched, wrote admissions essays and letters, applied, and gathered acceptance emails. As our year moved into the second semester and ENGL 206, my students also learned to enjoy poetry just a smidge more and wrote the most beautiful elegies. When senioritis hit, some of their attention to detail waned. I might have scolded just a bit. Still, they finished strong.

The students encouraged each other, laughed, fought, cried, learned tough life lessons, and felt the accomplishment of achieving goals together. I know that we’ve all had moments to embrace forever and moments we’d like to forget. The Class of 2023 moved across the bumps and expected senior year ebbs and flows right on schedule. If you have a senior in your life, you know what this looks like from your home viewpoint, and I am also so thankful for all the family members who helped and supported my students.  

One of the most powerful moments in the class came just a few days ago as I read aloud from our text and had them write their answers to the questions I asked as if they were in a discussion with themselves. They were thoughtful, serious, open to ideas, and a bit scared. I have never been more proud of them. In those moments and in the final writings, these seniors bloomed into graduates. 

I hope they, like all of my other past graduates, remember that once you are mine, you are always one of mine. Always. These loves are ready for their next steps, and I will always be right here when they need me. Along with their end-of-the-year surprise and note, I continued the tradition and wrote them a graduation poem. Shakespeare or Owen, I am not, but for them I tried my hand at a sonnet, complete with iambic pentameter. I hope they remember the message behind the humor and always mind the details in their work and in their relationships.

Slow Down, Notice, and Create Flow:

A Poem about Embracing Details for the Class of 2023

Your choices make me weak as you are caught

between confusion and the moment when

you let a comma land in the wrong spot.

I sigh and show too much of my chagrin

because I know you know the easy rule.

A partial quote does not undo your wit.

My pencil and green pen prepare to dual

against the lame excuses you permit,

detracting from the lacking care and lapsed

attention phones and friends and boredom steal

from you. Did you make haste to be relaxed,

leaving lazy caps a sad ordeal?

How many signs and samples can I give

to make your grammar be transformative?

How can I let you go to chase your dreams

when still you need to practice once again

the format and the planning to boost esteem?

I’ll have to set you free and trust you then.

Oh, human nature’s way dictates our proud,

self-centered rush, yet you direct your mind.

A thoughtfulness will lead to care endowed

upon your writing skill and on your shrined

relationships. You see, details are more

than for your script. Yes, love and praise belong

to those who search for finer points and pour

the time and plans into specifics—strong.

So, go. And as you travel on, compose

your focus from the commas to the flows.

Lori Vandeventer

May 16, 2023

A Bonus Haiku: Numbers Are Hard

You’ll always belong to me.

Brave. Hard-working. Bright.

Now, go chase ambitious dreams!

Truth Telling for My 2022 Graduates

May 21 was a very special day for the Class of 2022 from my school. Graduation day. Faculty and staff in my district worked diligently for the past thirteen years to ensure that this day would happen for our students. I know their families are excited and feeling bittersweet emotions connected to a day of commencement. I am proud of these graduates, and following tradition, I wrote a poem for my students and shared it with them earlier in the week before their ceremony. Actually, this year’s poem turned into a second one as well. The message is the same, but my advice moved into a personal connection in the 2.0 version. 

My grandmother kept succulents, known as mother hen and chicks in our family. Even though she passed when I was four years old, I have always felt a connection to her through these plants. I took a few from the home my grandfather shared with her when I married and started my life as an adult. Since then, I’ve had descendants from her plants at every home my husband and I have inhabited, and I’ve given away hundreds of them because sharing makes the original plants more prosperous. I imagine that’s how my grandmother’s love is still moving through me. That’s how love works. 

Each member of my current class of graduates received a chick from my home. They carried those little babies around all day, caring for them already. Likewise, I want my students to know that God loves them and cares for them with great strength.

My prayer is for my words to be encouraging and be a reminder to all who read them. The poems are to honor the Class of 2022, but I hope they can be a blessing to all readers. 

To this year’s second period gang, Congratulations, my loves!

You Know I Tell You the Truth 1.0

The days and months and years that lay ahead 
of you will be full of challenges. You will make plans 
and work to fulfill dreams of which 
only some will come to fruition. 
Problems will be in those future days. 
You will believe the best of life will come 
when you finish school or 
fall into a new love 
or become healthier or secure the new job. 
But don’t trust those lies 
whether you say them or someone tries to convince you.

You can’t just be anything you want to be. 
You won’t save another person from their own choices. 
You shouldn’t expect flowers and rainbows 
to fill your universe with opportunity. 
You won’t see a perfect path paved and ready 
for your diligent and sincere efforts to 
shape the life you intend to live. 
This old world is far bigger
 and treacherous and set in its ways 
than you can imagine. 
You might search for an item or a guru or a pill
when the pressure lays on your lungs. 
If your mind is passive, you will struggle to 
breathe the next breath.

You know I tell you the truth. 

So, what’s the plan to survive in the next moments or
days or months or years? 
A secret I know can help you. 
Will you commit to an active, attentive mind? 
A turn from frivolous notions, 
from a passive observation of yourself? 

When you think
…your efforts should guarantee success
…other people keep you from gaining ground
…the world’s red tape and rules force you into 
a holding pattern
…your gossip and drama are harmless
…all of the pressures push against you, then

Change your conduct which will 
Change your thinking which will
Change your feelings which creates


Prove your hope against whatever 
the world throws at you by 
first changing your own actions. 

The secret of hope is more powerful 
than the darkness of this world. 
Overcome the hard seasons and cling to hope 
and family and joy 
even in the middle of difficult times.

You don’t need to conform to your past ignorance, 
squeezed into the culture around you. 
You don’t have to worry about being liked or noticed or powerful. 
Choose actions that prove your knowledge and character. 
Choose to be kind and loving and honorable. 
Help without being asked. 
Show others patience and honesty and sincerity. 

I promise that in your future, bad events will happen, 
so don’t be surprised or angry or hurt. 
Humans flounder.
In these moments, you can turn negative into hope, 
respond with gentleness and respect,
be different from the crowd. 

I don’t subscribe to the secret of hope at times. 
In the misery of problems, my actions take 
my mind into a dark place where my emotions 
suffocate me. 
I can’t find hope in this place, and you won’t find it there, either. 

So, focus your actions to direct your mind and emotions
and find your hope.

Hope is the answer. 

You are on this fast-spinning earth for a reason. 
You have a mission and a group of people who need you. 
Your butterfly effect will change the world. 

You know I tell you the truth.

Lori Vandeventer
May 15, 2022


Truth 2.0: The Mother Hen and Chicks

The mother hen sat alone
Her chicks would soon depart, and she
what she would tell them about
challenges, plans, 
and work to fulfill dreams 
of which only some will come true. 

She is certain of future trials 
for her chicks,
certain some will believe
the old lies of how the best of life 
will finally arrive--when
they crack open from the shell or 
fall into a new love 
or roam far from the safety of her wings. 
The mother hen knows to not
trust those lies 
no matter whose hungry mouths say the words.

This old world is far bigger
and treacherous and set in its ways 
than any chick can imagine. 

So, what’s the plan to survive in the next moments or
days or months or years? 
A secret the mother hen knows. 
Requiring an active, attentive mind, 
a turn from frivolous notions, 
from a passive observation. 

A change of conduct will 
change thinking which will
change feelings which creates


The secret of hope is more powerful 
than the darkness of this world. 

The mother hen knows to choose actions 
of knowledge and character, 
of kindness and love and honor. 
She wants her chicks to help 
without being asked,
to show patience and honesty and sincerity. 

Future, bad events will happen
to her chicks.
Still, she doesn’t want them
surprised or angry or hurt. 

In these moments, the negative can turn into hope
if her chicks
respond with gentleness and respect,
differently from the crowd. 

As the mother hen sits alone, she remembers
when she didn’t subscribe to the secret of hope. 
In the misery of problems, her actions led
into a dark place where 
emotions suffocated. 
Neither mother hens nor chicks
find hope in that place.

But, she knows how it feels to focus actions,
direct her mind and emotions
and find hope.
She knows that her chicks will 
sprout up,
peeking, at first, and then pushing through to surround her,
filling the space with beauty.
Her chicks, smart and capable, will 
continue, circle after circle, to 
choose actions
and adjust their thinking to settle their emotions into

Hope is the answer. 

Her chicks are on this fast-spinning earth for a reason 
with a mission.
And the mother hen knows their
butterfly effect 
will change the world. 

Lori Vandeventer
May 15, 2022

Thoughts for my Fellow Christian Educators and our Friends…

Two years ago, we were all thrown into the deep end and had to sink or swim with the likes of Zoom technology. We had to learn the basics about starting a meeting, using the chat feature, and unmuting our microphones before we tried to speak. Chat rooms and digital view boards and Google document comments seemed overwhelming back then when we moved to a virtual setting for classes and meetings with students. We were concerned about curriculum, but even more about our students’ social and emotional well-being. Most of us were making the biggest pivot of our careers.

Fast forward. Now we can smoothly instruct whether we are in the same room with our students or not. Technology is no longer so intimidating, and we can troubleshoot with confidence to overcome any blips in the process. Virtual meetings are as normal as taking attendance and keeping a gradebook with a digital student information system. The technology allows us to explore a much bigger world than ever before. Actually, I participated in a virtual experience this evening that I’d like to share with you.

I was honored to attend a Zoom meeting through Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) where we listened to a first-hand account from a Polish educator who is deeply involved in helping Ukrainian refugees. Her small town in Poland has a Proem Ministries camp that is now turned into a refugee living space. The camp provides all necessities for refugees who are seeking shelter from the war. Most arrive with one suitcase or one plastic sack of belongings. She explained that when the Ukrainian people arrive, they come from places that have been bombed and completely destroyed, so they are looking to begin new lives. This camp provides shelter, food, medicine, clothes, and trauma care. Also, she and her co-workers staff a Proem Ministries Christian school of over 400 students. Around 30 Ukrainian students have joined classes and are trying to restore some semblance of normalcy to their young lives while their fathers are still in Ukraine fighting and their mothers are securing permanent lodging and work in Poland. After hearing her stories, our adjustment to virtual learning in 2020 doesn’t seem like such a big pivot after all. 

The main purpose for the meeting is exciting. Our group of Christian educators is given a wonderful opportunity to offer monetary assistance to the camp and school in Poland. CEAI is accepting donations where 100% of the money will go straight to the Proem Ministries. Also, CEAI leadership has secured a $25,000 matching program with very generous donors. So, if Christian educators and our friends can donate the $25,000, the matching will make our donation to the Polish educators a $50K deposit!

I invite you to learn about the partner ministry, Proem Poland, who is serving desperate Ukrainian refugees.


I ask you to pray for all of the people in harm’s way because of this war. Then, if you are led to do so, you can join other educators and our friends to meet the monetary goal and support this humanitarian effort.

Donate Here

Tonight, I’m pondering the progression of time and technology over the past couple of years. The connections we can make from the little Zoom squares of pictures is amazing. The difference God can make in the lives of vulnerable people across the Atlantic because of those connections is miraculous.