Finger on the pulse

Saying a doctor “can’t take a pulse” is a vivid way to sum-up a doctor’s incompetence. What would be the equivalent for a teacher?

Yesterday a fitness to practice inquiry by the Medical Council into a doctor who had worked in Letterkenny General Hospital found her guilty of poor professional performance. Read more here and here. The doctor was unable to take a pulse or gauge the level of oxygen a patient was on, and she couldn’t recognise a symptom of lung disease. Furthermore, she had to be shown how to certify the death of a patient and how to write up medical notes in relation to a patient transferred from elsewhere.  These all sound like tasks that are core to being able to practise as a doctor.

What would the headline be for a teacher who was to be found guilty of poor professional performance by the Teaching Council? What are the core tasks that every teacher needs to be able to do? My initial list of tasks would include the following. Imagine preceding each task with “The teacher was unable to…” and think if you agree that such a teacher would be “guilty of poor professional performance.”

  1. Ensure a safe environment for the children in the class
  2. Know at least as much content as the children are expected to learn
  3. Identify gaps in each child’s literacy and numeracy levels
  4. Know what children are expected to know in a given subject at a given grade level
  5. Explain ideas/concepts in the curriculum subjects being taught
  6. Anticipate difficulties that children have in learning particular concepts
  7. Identify gaps in each child’s subject knowledge and skills
  8. Recognise when to call on the professional support of colleagues
  9. Recognise when to call on the professional support of other professionals
  10. Establish classroom procedures and maintain order in the classroom
  11. Lead a class discussion
  12. Plan for teaching
  13. Justify the reasons for choosing particular teaching materials
  14. Justify the reasons for choosing particular teaching strategies
  15. Evaluate and modify teaching resources (including those on the Internet)
  16. Document clearly and precisely what was taught
  17. Assess and record what children learn
  18. Write a school report that recognises a child’s achievement and identifies scope for development
  19. Respond to a parent’s questions about teaching
  20. Expand children’s horizons in at least one area


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