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!


Do the Steelers make your blood pump or boil? Are you secretly (or very openly) gleeful when the Lakers lose? When your favorite college team plays, do you let Jesus sit by you on the couch and calmly watch, or will your yells and referee critiques flow freely from your heart and spill out of your mouth? I have to admit I’ve spoken ugly words while supporting my favorite teams, mainly when my husband coached and my kids played. I cringe at the thoughts and comments that bubbled up and out of me, and I’ve apologized to God and to people.

Over the past few years, however, sports haven’t impacted me at all because I don’t care who wins what anymore, but I’ve found myself drawn into another facet of community life. The idea that some political leaders want to create laws forcing everyone to think/behave/read a certain way confuses me. And now that my livelihood as a librarian and teacher is at the center of these discussions, it frightens me. But, true to my goal for this year, I’m going to write in a way that scares me a little. 

The most recent legislative discussion brought to my attention concerns Indiana SB12 about keeping harmful materials away from minors. The bill’s authors want parents to have a way to see and question any material in a school library that they deem inappropriate. The current phrasing then shows that these senators want to “[remove] schools from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions.”

Wait. Does this actually say that I won’t be eligible for defense and will be criminally prosecuted if the library has material that a parent doesn’t like? 

Parents at my corporation can see the holdings of all three libraries, and we have a board-approved policy in place to make sure that all parents have a voice concerning their child’s library selections. Some parents wish for their students to read authors like Judy Blume, Alice Walker, John Steinbeck, Angie Thomas, Sherman Alexie, and William Shakespeare while others don’t. Isn’t it my job, even as a Jesus-following believer, to make sure materials are available for all patrons?

What’s the point of this micromanaging SB12? Are our leaders trying to force their belief system on all citizens? How is that American freedom? 

When I was listening to Annie F. Downs’s podcast Let’s Read the Gospels today, one part of scripture jumped out at me. The reading from the Gospel of Luke shows Jesus as he’s preparing to go to Jerusalem where he knows he will be crucified. In this particular section of Luke 9, Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem and moving through a Samaritan community. The simplified background is that Samaritans and Jewish people hated each other. They had a history of conflict and name-calling where both politics and religion were involved. Take a look at the beginning of the scripture.

Luke 9:51-56 (New International Version)

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 

The Samaritans did not welcome Jesus. They didn’t want him near or in their area because they had different viewpoints on life. The people did not believe in Jesus even when the miracles were happening in that exact time period and in close proximity to them. 

So, the disciples, being fully human with bubbling hearts that spilled out of their mouths, reacted.

54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

Look! Jesus, the living man who is the Christ, rebuked the disciples when they wanted to punish the people who didn’t think like them. Rebuked means to express sharp disapproval. When James and John wanted to destroy the people who thought differently, Jesus sharply criticized them. He shut them down and showed his strong disapproval. Then, he led them to another village to try again.

To me, this means that when humans disagree, Jesus does not want us to force beliefs on each other or use our relationship with Him to oppress and harm each other. Applied to Indiana SB 12, when librarians offer materials, each family chooses the items they want to read.

So, why are our modern legislators, in the name of moral Christianity, continually creating laws that force one belief onto all people? I’m a lifelong Christian who wants to follow Jesus in all of my dealings, and I want to be like Him. Using this and many other scriptures about Him, I see that I’m not supposed to force my beliefs on anyone. God built us with the free will to choose Him, so our relationship with Him will be authentic.

How does legislation like Indiana SB12 reflect Jesus? 

How do so many of the national laws and proposed pieces of legislation reflect the free will of each person to choose Jesus?

Mustard Seed Faith

In the Book of Matthew, chapter 17, a man approached Jesus and asked for help with his son who was possessed by a demon. The man reported that he brought the boy to the disciples, but they were not able to help. The words Jesus spoke next to his disciples give me chills.

17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

My heart hurts when I think of the times I push Jesus to ask these questions of me. Am I the only one? Do you also feel the sting of His disappointment?

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

A young woman and I were talking about this story. She feels that her workplace is a major battleground for spiritual warfare because of the burdens in the lives of her clients. She helps young children who come from broken homes full of drugs and abuse. She hears stories about family members in jail, about sexual information from 5-year-olds who should not know anything about what they’re reporting, and about adults who physically harm the children in their care. 

While this young woman loves her job and the children she counsels, she needs to know how to battle those demons on behalf of the children and then release the evil from herself. The pictures in her mind visit her in dreams, and the experiences at work bleed into a dark stain in her personal life. She wants to have the mustard seed of faith to overcome evil and make her workplace one of peace. 

The young woman talked to a friend about her concerns, and the friend explained that the mustard seed parable brought her to her knees when saw the mountains out West for the first time. The friend wondered, “How can a human possibly move a physical structure that big?” The conversation made the young counselor feel worse because her problem did not seem as big as the physical mountains.

However, the result of this young woman’s work is a human. It’s a truth for anyone who helps people; we never see the final product of our efforts. We can only see incremental gains along the way. I asked the young woman to look at the scripture in a new light. 

She is not responsible for changing the entire workplace and community by herself even though she originally saw those as the mountains she intended to move. The larger systemic issues of drug use, crime, racism, poverty, low education, economic factors, homelessness, and poor parenting along with many other issues won’t likely be changed by one person. Still, this strong young woman cultivates relationships with individual children and feels the mountainous burdens on their lives. She wants to move those mountains even though she only meets with the children for a small amount of time. 

I see the mustard seed as the words she says to the children. She plants positive ideas, techniques to deal with trauma, and self-control into every conversation. Her mustard seeds of faith extend into the hearts of those children daily, and without her knowing when or which words, her faith-spread light will take root and help recovery grow, one student at a time. 

In the future, those children will remember what she has taught them, and because of those tiny seeds of faith words, the lives of those children can be moved, with God’s help, from the trauma now into a beautiful future. Tending to the children’s decisions and knowledge can bring huge changes in their lives as they keep making one more good decision at a time and leaving evil behind them. 

This young woman’s job is to be a light in her dark workplace, to be certain that each mustard seed of faith she sows will grow a little at a time. Eventually, her words can open the children’s hearts to God’s offer of salvation and move them from the mountain of darkness to a life of light.

May we all plant our mustard seeds with the faith that Jesus offers us. May we see evidence of the mountains moving.

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

An Open Letter to Parents about Virtual Learning

18 March 2020

Dear Auspicious Parents,

Bless your hearts. We teachers see you and appreciate you.

In these days of forced eLearning, you are stepping into the gap for us. I know that you might not have a full cabinet of supplies at home and that you will be meeting your own work responsibilities while you are now also sitting with your students. Suddenly, you will be the teacher, disciplinarian, tech support, cafeteria staff, recess monitor, librarian, and janitor. I know that you will be doing your best for your children, and I encourage you to not accept all of these roles for yourself.

From the youngest to the oldest students, your children can step up to help you. Let them make their own lunch and clean up their own messes. After the novelty of this situation wears off and they try to procrastinate and push their work to the side, stay strong. Teachers spend many hours developing classroom management tactics to ensure smooth communication about responsibilities at school, but you have parenting experience on your side. No one knows your children as well as you do. Meet them at the table each day to do the work. You can find many helpful, age appropriate resources that will offer suggestions about setting up a schedule and keeping students focused on their learning.

Beyond those, here are a few suggestions for your older students:

~Find the balance between using technology for school and for social purposes. Many of us teachers make your children put away their phones during class. Even the seniors. We do not allow social networking sites, games, or random “research.” Be aware of what your kids are watching online during school time. Very long, winding rabbit holes are literally at every click and will distract even the best of us. Be prepared to take away the phones. The students will question you but be resilient. You’ve got this.

~Keep the responsibility for organizing and learning squarely on your children’s shoulders. You are not on our class rosters, so you are not expected to do this work. We are providing instruction, and your students will have to be more independent now than ever before. This process can actually be beneficial for the students because they will be more skilled with self-learning than any group before them. Think about how much you’ve had to teach yourself in your adult life. Consider this on-the-job-type training for them.

~Stay out of the emotional arena. You love your kids more than anyone, and they know that. You all know exactly which buttons to push to make each other crazy, and honestly, I fully expect your children to try pushing those buttons before this whole event is back to normal. My best teacher advice for you is to not get emotional. When you show emotions of frustration, anger, confusion, hesitation? They win. It’s that easy. Thirty years of teaching makes me know I’m right on this one. Be stoic during class time. Make them figure it out and do the work. If you refuse to be emotional, their #1 weapon against eLearning will be taken away.

~Be fully interested in their subjects, even if you aren’t. The absolute best gift you can give your students is your full attention when they are explaining what they are learning. All teachers hear so very many stories each day about the subjects that fascinate your kids. The very best of us listen and engage completely in those conversations, making each student think we are just as invested in the subject as they are. Even if you don’t like science, watch and listen as your student completes a lab. Ask questions. If you have no idea what manga is, get comfy and learn. The most important piece you bring to this virtual learning experience is falling in love with the work that your students are doing. Your interest will spur them forward, and you will be amazed at how much they enjoy learning and teaching about their favorite subjects.

We teachers are trying to create lesson plans that will meet standards and allow your children to keep learning through this pandemic. While we are working on our end to learn how to develop and implement the eLearning processes, we have your children in mind. Please know that we miss them. We miss their humor and their ability to surprise us with such wisdom for young people. We are excited that you will get to see your children in this way, too.

Good luck with this new adventure. You can do this!

Blessings to you,