Miss V’s closing arguments

In the beginning there was Miss V.

That’s how Mary Vandeventer was known to her high school English students, partly because it was easier than pronouncing her last name and partly because they felt a kind of kinship, even then. Young and only a few years out of college, Miss V wasn’t terribly older than her high school students, but old enough to know some of what lay ahead for them—disappointment, loss, rejection, regret and a thousand other wicked curveballs life would throw at their heads.

Miss V in those days

The end of another school year came, her last chance to teach a lesson about something—anything—that might help for the rest of their lives. True to her ways, she thought about it, scribbled some thoughts in her planner, scratched them out, added a couple more, rearranged them, revised them, practiced, and judged them to be ready. What came of it were three pages of notes that she’d share with her students on their last day. She called them her “closing arguments”—her final shot before a billion verdicts were rendered over the rest of her students’ lives. Just that one time, she thought.

But when one of her former students came back the next year and asked to see her “closing arguments” again, she decided to use them in her next last class of students … as she has now on every last day of every school year for the past 26 years

Miss V eventually got married and changed her name, although for a while she still was known as Miss V. Her closing arguments have changed as she grew older and wiser because, well … learning never stops.

Here are her closing arguments, delivered this week, on her last day of classes before she retires from public schools.

  • Don’t ever forget what you learned this year.
  • Always be aware of what you are capable of … and then go at least one step further.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Know that when tough times come along—and they will—that they will pass (usually in 6-8 weeks…)
  • If you want friends, you must first be a friend.
  • Sometimes you have to wait for what you want.
  • The right person makes you a better person, and you make them better, too.
  • Be aware that at some point, most of the people you love will fail you. You’ll fail them, too. So if you want to be forgiven, you must return the favor. (Marriage is hard!)
  • If you’re going to have a child, ever, you must be willing to care more about that child than you care about yourself.
  • Learn how to cook from scratch.
  • Take pictures of everything—all memories are important.
  • Write things down. You will be surprised what you forget.
  • Taking care of your stuff and your health will save you money.
  • Keep your suitcase in your closet.
  • You get what you want by earning it. That means you just work hard. Hard.
  • Your life, at the end of the day, is up to you. You choose.
  • Do it your way, and leave it all on the field.
  • “To thine own self be true.”


This week, Mary Franscell retires from public-school teaching after 34 years.

COVER IMAGE: Mary Vandeventer and her Dutch friend Liesbeth van Amerongen. “Take pictures of everything.”

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