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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you value the program, then encourage outstanding teaching colleagues to sign on as mentors.
- 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!