Muddling through the blogosphere

A Plea to BTSA Mentors


Ok, this is more a rant than plea, but someone needs to speak up for the many first or second-year, non-tenured teachers, who are obviously not really in a position to register a formal complaint regarding the amount of their valuable time and energy that is being siphoned off by BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) requirements. BTSA is a California thing, but I imagine other states and countries have similar programs. I visited the website, but had trouble getting past the logo, which visually suggests to me that the program is all about assessment, but allows for slipping in a sliver of support.

Fortunately there are BTSA mentors who are absolute heroes to their assignees. Take, for example, Edna Shoemaker, a high school English teacher who mentored…..high school English teachers at her school site. My Area 3 Writing Project colleague Bee Foster described her sessions with Edna as “So worthwhile!” Edna was her thinking partner and number one supporter. During their sessions, Bee could rethink and rework her lesson plans, and walk into class the next day ready to engage her students in powerful, well-crafted literacy activities.

So if you are a BTSA mentor and you suspect that your assignees are less than thrilled with their program, I would like to make a few recommendations:

  1. Travel to your new teacher – By saving them the travel time of coming to your site, you’ve already gifted the 1st/2nd year teacher a little much-needed time.
  2. Help build your new teacher’s network – If you are an elementary teacher, for instance, mentoring a high school history teacher, use your district connections to find the “just in time” link to a veteran teacher who would be happy to share his/her unit of, for example, the Neremberg Trials.
  3. Work to redefine your district’s definition of the “required weekly meeting” so that your Tuesday 4:00-7:00 session, for instance, does not prevent your new teacher from attending a Tuesday 4:00-7:00 session at a nearby university with a guest lecturer/educator in his/her discipline.
  4. Allow your new teacher to be a hero at his/her site. If, for instance, he/she is ready and able to step into an assistant coaching position – that would keep that particular sport going at the site, providing a group of students with equity of access – adjust your weekly meeting time.
  5. If you value the program, then encourage outstanding teaching colleagues to sign on as mentors.
  6. If you question the value of the program or feel it needs some revisting, speak out!

It is my goal to revisit the BTSA topic throughout the school year and add to the list of mentor heroes. If you know a BTSA hero or would like to add to or discuss items on the suggestions list, I welcome your comments!


  1. As a survivor of BTSA in my district I concur wholeheartedly with everything you said. I was lucky to have a phenomenal mentor, however, it didn’t help to counteract the amount of paperwork and time-consuming minutia involved.

  2. “Survivor” and “time-consuming minutia” – I’m starting to see a pattern here, Mathew, in how post-BTSA teachers describe the experience. In a time of tight budgets, I’m not understanding the justification for keeping BTSA in California’s budget.

  3. Ugh, why would anyone be so inflexible about meeting times. We ALL know how busy you are when you are starting out teaching, you don’t have a lot of spare time. All that says is, “My time is more important than my mentee,” which is stupid when you consider the mentor is being PAID a stipend. Come on, provide some service for the money. It’s so old school, and you know they are probably thinking something like, “Well, I had to work like a dog through my first few years, if they can’t take the heat…” which is how we “kill our young” in the profession.

  4. I hadn’t thought about the $ end of this rant, Alice. In a recent conversation with a mentee, she shared that a)that it “seemed to be all about the mentor’s schedule.” Another mentee shared that she was one of four being “supported” by the same mentor. Wait a minute…does that mean the mentor’s stipend quadrupled?!?

    So maybe another recommendation I need to add to the list is for mentors to limit themselves to one mentee.

    Thanks for sharing a new perspective.

  5. Hey Gail. I really liked the demonstration article. THis is just a test.

  6. OK, Don, for you, I’m fine with being “just a test” item;-)

  7. YES, their stipend is for EACH mentee they “manage”. IMHO, some mentors are saints. Some are all about maximizing their stipend, and not as concerned about providing service in return (these usually don’t demand a lot of their mentees and aren’t picky about the “hours” part because they are skirting hours themselves. The worst is the I will make you toe the line, and jump through all the hoops, because that’s how I’ve done things, it’s made me successful, and it will make you successful, and being flexible would undermine the MOST important lesson I have to teach which is about following procedures. Makes you wonder what they are teaching in their classes–a subject matter, or “schooliness”?

  8. Hi Gail. I never had to do BTSA…now it’s required. We had a VERY capable 2nd year teacher at our site that often could not participate in activities with us, her team, because of the demands of BTSA. I agree that it seemed more like assessment than support. It’s one more hoop for a new teacher to jump through…something to think…and talk about!

  9. @tdeponte – When you think about it, what could be more important to new teachers than support and mentoring from their own teams? The opportunity to learn from veteran teachers who teach the same curriculum and are right there on your site and who know the culture of the school?

    Thanks for raising the point and for joining the conversation:-)

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