>I was reading the lovely Mir today. She was talking about an impending trip south with her adorable children and all of the anxiety it caused, even the anxiety unrelated to the trip. “I need to have the house clean because if the plane crashes I don’t want people thinking ‘Such a tragedy, but would it have killed her to scrape the toothpaste out of the sink?’”
She reminded me of a talk we had at school last spring. After our friend Cindy’s death from meningitis, we took some time to clean her room and prepare it for the summer. It was a good way for us to say goodbye to our friend and colleague, share some memories, and keep her stories alive a little longer.
Cindy was amazingly organized. As we took down the June calendar and the song posters around the room, we found that their storage was obvious. She had a place for everything, and everything in its place. Somehow, this wasn’t an obsessive-compulsive thing. The time and space she saved by keeping her multitude of materials in order allowed her to spend more time where it counted: teaching the kindergarten children she loved.
The day she went home, not even knowing it was the last time she’d teach, Cindy had left sub plans (for one day) and her usual to-do list, with the ta-da part (finished goals) crossed off. When it became evident that she was more seriously ill than she’d thought and she was in no shape to write plans, the substitute was able to work from her to-do list and her planning book.
As we cleaned the room after school ended and just two weeks after her death, a few of us talked. We always leave emergency plans in or near our sub folders in case we get in an accident or the house is on fire or something happens to prevent us from writing sub plans for the day. But were our plans in order well enough that someone could come in and teach for us if we died suddenly?
I looked around my desk and thought about the tilt-a-whirl I’ve been on since having the flu, and thought yes, someone could teach for me. My plans are in order, my copies are made, and I’m organized enough that a substitute teacher could find everything he or she needed. My gradebook, however, is another story. I have stacks upon stacks of math papers that need to be entered in the gradebook and filed. I’m almost up to date on science and reading. But math — oh, my, math. Somehow, the paperwork of math is the hardest to keep up. It’s the daily grind of it, added to the number of kids out with flu and/or bronchitis and/or strep right now, and keeping their make-up work in order with the others.
Well, I guess that means I don’t dare get sick before parent-teacher conferences in two weeks. Because really, who would finish my gradebook and calculate the grades?
And the sink would still be full of toothpaste!

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  1. >With the lovely virus finishing its work at our house, we let a lot of things go as well. This morning we had a little panic when, fully dressed and about to walk out the door, we realized that it was dress-up day at work because a corporate big-wig was there, and since we hadn’t gotten around to laundry yet, we didn’t have clean non-denim pants. Oh well. If I were to get sick and not attend to housework, I think whoever had to step in and help would start pulling out his/her hair. “It’s been HOW LONG since you scrubbed the toilet?” Lay off it. The math stuff will get done. I have faith in you.

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