Poet Mentors play a vital role in the organization because they serve as a first line of contact for the youth we serve every year. All of our Poet Mentors must be engaged in a year-long apprenticeship program that includes a formal mentorship with one of our senior teaching staff, participation in our First Sound Institute at USF, and ongoing assessment, evaluation and professional development from Youth Speaks. We hire accomplished spoken word artists to train and work as mentors and workshop facilitators in our residency, school visit and after school programs.
Our goal is to jointly inspire voice, artistic development and leadership by fostering face-to-face relationships between emerging artists and young people.
We believe that our ability to effectively apply our unique pedagogical practice depends on the quality of the teaching artists we employ.
For this coming year, Youth Speaks will continue to shift how we invest in and develop our teaching artists (poet-mentors), and how we identify, train, support, and evaluate them.
We have launched a new five-tier methodology for placing and supporting Poet Mentors.
Tier 1: Full Time Poet Mentors, staff position
Our Tier 1 Teaching Artists are our full-time Poet Mentors; they are fully incorporated as Youth Speaks staff members. These are individuals who we consider to be the most fluent in Youth Speaks’ mission, pedagogy, and philosophical frameworks. They support over 20 Youth Speaks Bay Area Programs throughout the year, and facilitate arts education programs for youth in and out-of-school. In addition to being excellent youth development facilitators, they mentor and develop other teaching artists, and work to continue to develop on the tenets of the Youth Speaks pedagogy and practice. These individuals operate at the highest standard and best represent Youth Speaks publicly with multiple constituents. They are therefore asked to participate in fundraising activities, support administrative duties, model for younger teaching artists, and support program evaluations and assessments for the organization.
Tier 2: Contracted Poet Mentors
Tier 2 Poet Mentors embody all of the skills listed above, and typically have a long relationship working with Youth Speaks, yet they work with us as contracted artists. Their work as educators and artists is on par with our Tier 1 Poet Mentors; they contract rather than join the staff based on either their busy schedules and/or our capacity to support additional full-time positions. We feel confident having these individuals represent the organization on multiple levels because of their ability to articulate our mission and pedagogical framework. We seek these individuals out because of their experience and proven commitment to excellence in both their teaching and their craft. They are professional and timely in their interactions with our staff and partners. These Poet Mentors serve as mentors to young teaching artists, participate in trainings throughout the year as outlined in their contracts, and support evaluations and assessments of programs.
Tier 3: Youth Speaks Fellows
A program launched in September 2014, Youth Speaks Fellows is a two year fellowship for poet mentors. Tier 3 Fellows embody all of the skills listed above, and have been selected for this fellowship through a rigorous application process. Applications will be open nationally. Their work as educators and artists is on par with our Tier 1 and Tier 2 Poet Mentors, yet they are not fully trained in Youth Speaks pedagogy and methodology; their positions are either one or two-year terms and are not permanent staff members. We seek these individuals out because of their experience and proven commitment to excellence in both their teaching and their craft. They dive deep into training to understand Youth Speaks practice, and then are assigned duties similar to Tier 1 and Tier 2 Poet Mentors. These Poet Mentors serve as mentors to young teaching artists, participate in trainings throughout the year as outlined in their fellowship agreement, and support evaluations and assessments of programs. After the end of their Fellowship, they are given a Youth Speaks accreditation, which they can take with them throughout their career.
Tier 4: Poet Mentor Apprentices
Many Tier 4 Poet Mentors have been part of the Youth Speaks community over an extended period of time. Some of them have come through our programs as participants. Some have come to us through our national Brave New Voices Network. Others have approached us because they are actively seeking work in the field of arts education and continue to develop their own craft as writers and poets. We have identified these individuals because they have shown exceptional potential because of their initiative, professionalism, facilitation skills, enthusiasm, and abundant artistic talent. Additionally they have shown that they can communicate in a timely manner, clearly and directly with multiple constituencies, including the staff at Youth Speaks.
Apprentices are identified through a rigorous application process. Once selected, they are paid to shadow Tier 1 and 2 Poet Mentors during residencies and workshops. They also attend mandatory trainings throughout the year, participate in workshop debriefs, program evaluations and assessments, and participate in school visits. As part of their development, they are given opportunities to facilitate workshop spaces under the mentorship of their Lead Poet Mentor.
Tier 5: Emerging Poet Mentors
Tier 5 Poet Mentors are asked to help support our School Visit Programs and other outreach events. They are strong performers with quality writing who are contracted to perform at our public events. They are also invited to participate in many of our organizational trainings. Many Emerging Poet Mentors apply for the Apprentice program.