“Send in the Drones” – My Anti-establishment Lyrics

My district mandates explicit direct instruction (“EDI”) as our sole instructional method.  While I applaud their desire to help all students, especially our underserved, low socioeconomic status students, their decision supplants a teacher’s unique, passionate pedagogy for a cookie cutter, “show and tell” instructional method, one that relegates teaching to a “paint by the numbers” task.

I have no issue with direct instruction, explicit or not.  It is the essence of teaching at some point in a lesson, which may stretch over multiple days.  I do have an issue with a heavy-handed “do as I say” approach to anything required of a professional, such as deciding on the most appropriate instructional method, when it is apparent that the mandated method does not universally apply across all classrooms, courses, or students.

The components of EDI are benign, and include:

  • Checking for understanding
  • Setting lesson objectives
  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Developing students’ skills by explaining, modeling, and demonstrating
  • Presenting content
  • Using guided practice

Like most things in life, these components are harmless taken a piece at a time.  The nefarious aspect is the insistence that these steps be followed in very specific ways, which while simplifying the observers task, does not necessarily suit the needs of students in the moment.  It cripples a teacher’s freedom to determine situationally relevant pedagogy based on their experience and expertise.

The district’s approach constrains and demotivates teachers rather than empowers and supports them. Mandating a single teaching method (EDI) harms our students far more than it helps them. Mandating EDI as the sole instructional method for a diverse student population:

1) Keeps education firmly cemented in a 19th– and 20th century factory production model versus a 21st century creative and collaborative problem solving model;

2) Institutionalizes lowest common denominator thinking / deficit thinking;

3) Acculturates students to view learning as a “training” expectation (you show me then I do) rather than a “thinking” model (I consider how to approach what you asked me to do then consult with peers and mentors for support);

4) Hinders the development of our gifted and talented students (they are not challenged in most, if not all, of their courses until they hit AP – we are failing our best and brightest students);

5) Forces students ill-equipped for certain courses to attempt work far outside of their zone of proximal development (ZPD) – we are failing our most needy students; and

6) Constrains a teacher’s professional judgment to a one-size fits all model of instruction, which benefits the observation process more than it benefits students.

Heaven help us.  And forgive me Stephen Sondheim.

Send in the Drones

Isn’t it rich, loving pair-share                                                                                                       Me here at last teaching – while you’ve been nowhere                                                         Send in the drones

Isn’t it bliss, all of these moves                                                                                                   One who keeps looking around – and one who can’t approve                                               But where are the drones – send in the drones

Just when I stopped – can’t be a volunteer                                                                           Finally finding the one that I wanted – was not even here                                             Making my opening again with my usual flair                                                                       So sure of my points – then sorry, no APK there

Don’t you love a farce; I think, I fear                                                                                           I thought that you’d want what I want – so sorry my dear                                                   But where are the drones? There ought to be drones                                                         Maybe next year.

Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer                                                                                                       Losing my timing this late in my career                                                                                     But where are the drones – send in the drones                                                                     Don’t bother, they’re here.


About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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2 Responses to “Send in the Drones” – My Anti-establishment Lyrics

  1. Pingback: Are We Too Soft on Our Students? | Reflections of a Second-career Math Teacher

  2. Pingback: When Life Gives You Lemons… | Reflections of a Second-career Math Teacher

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