The beeping begins almost as soon as my mom gets back to the room.
It lasts for about a minute, then stops.
And then, about a minute later, it starts again.
"What's that?" I say to my sister, Betsy. "Do you think we should go get a nurse?"
Betsy is unconcerned. "Nah, Mom seems ok. And the nurses are right there. They'll come if they think anything is wrong."
I resume my text to Nancy, my other sister, who is a nurse. Because of COVID restrictions, only two of us can be at the hospital. Betsy and I are doing that, and Nancy will take the night shift at my mom's apartment.
Mom is back from recovery. She has to lay flat for four hours and have an echocardiogram in an hour, but she's talking and awake and seems good.
And then the curtain opens and Debbie, who I think is a CNA, comes in. "Your oxygen is a little low. We're going to make you a little bit more comfortable," she says to my mom, unwrapping an oxygen tube and inserting it into my mom's nose.
Although the situation does not seem serious, I decide to pass on this information and text Nancy again. Her oxygen is a little low so they are giving her oxygen.
Nancy texts back, right away. She better get taking some deep breaths!! What is her saturation on room air?
Her saturation on room air?? I have no idea what my sister is talking about.
I get up to look at the panel that the nurses seem to be watching.
Is it SPO? I text to my sister.
Nancy texts right back. Oxygen saturation! she says.
I still don't know what Nancy is talking about.
"Take a picture of the panel," suggests Betsy. That seems like a good idea, so I take a picture and send it to my sister.
Nancy replies with another question. How much oxygen is she on?
I don't know the answer to this question either, and apparently, it wasn't in the first picture. I take a picture of the dial next to where the oxygen tubing attaches to the wall and send it to Nancy. Before she can reply, Debbie comes back into the room and I decide to ask an expert.
Debbie knows exactly what Nancy wants. "She was on two liters, but she is doing better now, and we are going to turn it down to one. She was at 86 or 87% oxygen saturation on room air, and now she's popped back up to 96. She's doing fine."
I text my sister again, and she responds with two thumbs up.
Betsy and I laugh for about ten minutes about our lack of medical expertise and about how Nancy asks and asks and asks, and we simply don't have any idea what she is talking about.
When I am driving home, though, I think about the situation, and I think about teaching. When I listen to a kid read, or look at their writing, I immediately go into diagnostic mode. What's going on here? What is the kid doing right now? What should I do next? How can I help this kid move forward as a reader, a writer, a learner? Those, I think, are exactly the kinds of questions Nancy was asking as she looked at my mom's data. What is going on here? What needs to happen next?
And then I think of the teachers I know that don't have this expertise, That can't analyze the data they are seeing. That don't know what to do next. The just-beginning teachers. The teachers who have switched grade levels. The teachers who have come into our profession with only minimal training, e.g. a six week summer course in how to be a teacher. They don't know what that data means. That don't know what to do next.
And that's why professional development, and mentors, and professional reading are so critical to our profession.
We have to look with educated eyes at what we are seeing. We have to be able to pick out strengths and needs.
We have to be experts. We have to know what to do next.