FAQs

How do I become a Cotsen fellow? How do I get my school into the program?

If you want to know more about how to involve your school in the program, please contact us for more information. Full support of the superintendent, teacher union leadership, and the principal for the program is required for a school to be selected. The school must have excellent candidates for both mentor and fellows. Candidates for fellows need to have completed two years of teaching before starting the program. In public schools, teachers also need a preliminary or clear credential.

The screening and selection process for mentors and fellows is demanding. Only about 60 percent of applicants are chosen for fellowships. For a school to qualify, a mentor and a minimum of five fellows must be recommended by the screening committee. The more qualified applicants from the school, the more likely the school will be included in the program.

How are fellows and mentors chosen?

All members of the faculty are invited to apply to participate if they will have completed two years of teaching by the time they begin the fellowship and, in public schools, if they have a preliminary or clear credential. The foundation presents information about the ART of TEACHING mentoring program to the entire faculty. Those interested submit an application. A screening committee of two to four educators who are not part of that school district observe each candidate teach a full lesson and conduct an interview with the teacher. The committee recommends those who should be invited to become a mentor or Cotsen fellow.

What kinds of schools participate?

Currently, participating schools are located only in California. Only elementary schools are eligible. We balance the annual mix of schools to include those in both low-income and high-income communities to prove that great teaching can flourish in a variety of contexts.

Why do you focus on good, experienced teachers rather than new teachers or those who need help?

Currently, there are many good programs offered by districts and states to support new teachers through induction and to assist struggling educators. The ART of TEACHING mentoring program is unique. It is designed for the teachers who are often ignored by the school system because they are so effective and do not require intervention. It is designed to enable those with the most potential to become the very best in their profession. The ART of TEACHING promotes teaching excellence because excellence in teaching is what every child needs.

Who makes a good mentor?

Mentors are respected teachers who taught in the school where they will continue as a mentor. Effective mentors are people who are good facilitators and are supportive individuals. They are not necessarily the most experienced teacher at the school or even the very best teacher on the faculty, though they must be very good educators. They do, however, have a skill for working collaboratively with colleagues and can articulate what they see and know about teaching.

Are the mentors trained?

New mentors are trained in the foundations of mentoring. Training is tailored for mentors working with experienced and highly competent teachers and occurs before the school year begins with their fellows. In addition, all mentors meet monthly for additional professional development in their role and to learn from each other.

As a Cotsen fellow, what is the relationship between my personal, professional goal and the goals of the school?

The ART of TEACHING is a personalized, professional development program. You start with a goal that allows you to build upon your strengths. That goal may or may not match the current school goal. As a member of the school community, you continue attending to the school goal. With your mentor, you focus on the subject content and aspects of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession most likely to get you to excellence within the two years of your fellowship.

How much extra time and paperwork is required of Cotsen fellows?

Fellows do no paperwork other than responding to an annual evaluation of the mentoring program. Extra time is required in order to meet regularly with your mentor to plan and debrief. Most fellows set up a regular meeting schedule that suits them best. Once a month, fellows participate in an Inquiry meeting with their colleagues and that often is scheduled after school. Stipends are offered for participation in Inquiry. The time with your mentor and with the other fellows is well spent and worth the effort.

What is the principal’s role in the program?

The ART of TEACHING mentoring program can succeed only with the full support of the principal. The principal allows the mentor to be successful by encouraging him or her to focus fully on mentoring responsibilities and not be pulled off task for other assignments or “emergencies”. The principal builds upon the mentor’s work and what the fellows learn by having participants share with their colleagues both new knowledge and teaching strategies that hold promise for them. Mentors meet regularly with the principal to report on what fellows have set as goals and what they are doing to build upon their strengths. Together they plan how to extend the benefits of the program to the rest of the faculty. Principals can preserve the confidentiality of the mentor-fellow relationship by not asking for any evaluative information on how each fellow is doing. Fellows will talk about their successes and challenges if they choose to do so. Principals invite fellows as they grow in confidence and leadership skills to play pivotal roles in strengthening professional dialogue at the school and in conducting professional development.

The Foundation also offers principal support and training for principals of schools in the ART of TEACHING. We offer a series of activities designed to connect principals across schools and districts to facilitate their professional growth by learning from each other and attending training sessions related to improving the quality of teaching.