I Am the Sieve

One of my students dropped out today.

He is not my first, but he is my first this year in this school.  Rationally, academically I know that my few weeks with him were not enough to reverse years of conditioning and choices that led him to this moment.  The social, economic, and cultural forces are vast and beyond my control—beyond even my barest influence.  His choices are his own, and they have a long history that that do not involve me except as a forgotten footnote.  I know that; I really do.

Knowing is not enough.

I am the sieve.  I am one of the many holes that he has slipped through.

And I know his future, even if I do not know him well.  I may be able to tell myself that this can be a learning opportunity for him, that he can come back from this and make a life for himself.  But in our world—no, in our economy—I know what he has lost even as he cannot know it himself.  Knowledge is not enough.

For every success, there are innumerable failures.  I could be fine if we were talking about lightbulbs not human lives and futures.  So, what is enough?

Grief, perhaps?  But that must be assuaged.  Perspective?  He was lost by viewing him as one among many in need and in danger.  The promise of “never again”?  But that is a lie to keep the ghosts at bay while I sleep.  Acceptance?  How can I distinguish acceptance from complacency?

I do not have any answers, I only know that I was not enough.


5 thoughts on “I Am the Sieve

  1. BarbN

    well, yes, you were not enough to keep him from dropping out. So a small bit of the blame can be laid on your shoulders. You wouldn’t be a good teacher if you couldn’t feel that. But make sure you’re only taking on your part of the responsibility (which is small) and not the whole thing.

  2. Michael


    I feel what you’re saying but sometimes school isn’t the answer for everyone. Not all knowledge need to come with credits and all. I appreciate & honor your compassion to teaching younger generations even though I’m not sure what you do. When unsure, look within.


    1. GR Post author

      This is dangerously close to spam. I am more than happy to have a serious—or even not so serious—conversation. But leave the self-promotion at the door.

      If you want to know what I do, check the “Profile” tab.

      That said, I do want to address something you said. I believe firmly, and with total conviction, that high school is for everyone. Without a high school diploma, the basic ability to function in our society is, almost entirely, gone. Even more, school teaches students how to think clearly and deeply, something human beings by nature tend to resist. High schools are far from perfect—many are excellent and many are quite awful—but the ability have your voice heard in assent or dissent is based upon your level of education, and high school is our society’s most basic assumption.

  3. Michael

    I believe you took my post out of context. I am not Chris (self-promotion?) and I was implying college. Sorry for the confusion as I should have read your profile tab first. I personally hope to raise my children on a farm/homestead community where they never learn to celebrate Christopher Columbus and his holiday. I guess I was just trying to point out that not everyone goals in life are the same but we do all share similar aspirations. To show someone love, compassion & promote their self-worth is not a failure. Obviously this is a charged topic for you & I meant no disrespect with my post.


    1. GR Post author

      Thanks for the clarification on both fronts. No disrespect taken either—merely misunderstanding and some mild disagreement.

      And I agree, showing someone love and compassion is never a failure. But when a student leaves my class and drops out of high school, I do consider that a failure. As an educator, I take responsibility for my students’ learning. Yes, the reality is much more complex than that, but to do my job, I must do everything I can to help my students learn and grow in the long-term. Naturally, I’m frustrated and realize I could have done more or done differently when I lose that chance.

      Thanks too for sharing your thoughts. Good luck with the farming.


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