We have Ofsted coming to see us at college next week, and it turns out that the same chap who saw me at my previous place of work (graded ‘outstanding’) will be in to see if the sixth form academy I now work for can justify a grade higher than ‘unsatisfactory’. It is quite a change to be working in a place which is not yet satisfactory, and in some ways I can’t lose: I’m so new. However, hoops need jumping through and lessons need screening before they get observed, so I have been preparing something today for next week, thinking that tomorrow’s double lesson with the Nice but Dim group would sort itself out after tea tonight.
All well and good, until I got a phone call through from an ex-colleague about our mutual friend who has advanced cancer. Our friend’s liver has failed and she is now in the local hospice. She is 40.
Suddenly it is impossible to concentrate on anything. Have I said everything I need to have said to her? Can I visit while there is still time? Can I take Lily? What if this happened to us? How could I communicate to everyone I love and appreciate how much they have all meant to me? What words of encouragement would I write for opening after I had died? Could I be as brave as my friend? What is she going through? Is she in pain? Are her children able to see her? Is everything in place for after her death? Is it too late to pray for a miracle? Will she have too many visitors? Will she have time to rest? Will she slip away quietly? Will the pain go away quickly?
My former colleagues all share this together at school tomorrow, but I have to teach a class of students who never heard of my friend, and work with colleagues who never met her. I want to do the lesson tomorrow and get out. It is not my style, but I cannot linger when there is so little time.