Educating Adults in Western Massachusetts since 1984

 

Frequently Asked Questions for Volunteer Tutors

Schedule and Location

Where will I volunteer? 
At one of The Literacy Project’s five
learning centers, in Amherst, Greenfield, Orange, Northampton or Ware, or at our off-site classroom in Warren.

Can I get there by bus? 
Most of our sites are accessible by the local bus service.  Some sites require a short walk from the bus stop to the learning center. 

When can I volunteer?
All of our tutors work during class hours.  The schedules differ at each location, Amherst, Greenfield, Orange, Northampton or Ware, but all classes are held during weekdays.  We do not have any tutoring options on the weekends. 

Committment

How often will I volunteer?
Once a week, for 1-3 hours a session. 

How long is the commitment?
At least 6 months or two school semesters. 

Is it okay if I go on vacation or leave the area for the summer?
It’s usually fine, as long as we know in advance. 

What if I can’t make the commitment but still want to help?
Call the Volunteer Coordinator to talk about the options. 

Background and Training

Do I need a background in teaching?
No, you just need a willingness to learn along side the students.

Is training provided?
Yes.  We offer an individualized training, primarily on-line.

Do I have to complete the training before I volunteer?
No.  We ask you to complete the training within the first six weeks of tutoring. 

Curriculum and Materials

What exactly will I be doing?
You will be assisting the instructor by working with one student or a small group of students on lessons the instructor has selected.  You may work with a number of different people over the course of the class period.

Do you use a specific curriculum?
No.  We develop our curriculum based on the needs and goals of the students, using materials that are relevant to the adults in our classes.  Our teaching methods are eclectic, and we draw from a wide variety of approaches depending on what will provide success for individual students.  You’ll see a wide range of materials in the classroom, including GED test prep books, hands-on math manipulatives, newspaper articles, flash cards, learning games, etc.   

Will I have to prepare materials outside of class time?
No.  The teacher is responsible for selecting the materials.  If you are interested in helping to design lessons, talk to the teacher you work with. 

How is class time structured?
It varies, but most teachers run a group lesson for some part of the class time and allow students to work on their own for the remainder of the time.  Students use an individualized learning plan to help track progress towards their goals. 

Do you give tests to students? 
We use a standardized test called the MAPT (Massachusetts Adult Proficiency Test) which measures reading and math skills and creates a grade level equivalency.  Students are re-tested periodically.  

We also help students measure their progress by taking GED practice tests, keeping portfolios of their work, and reviewing their progress towards the academic and personal goals they have set. 

The Students

Who can enroll in the program?
The program is open to anyone at least 16 years old who is able to make the commitment of at least 5 hours per week, is conversationally fluent in English, and is able to benefit from our classes.  A student who is under 18 needs to officially withdraw from high school in order to enroll in our program. 

Do students pay for the classes?
No.  All of our services are free. 

How do the students find out about the program?
Most of them hear about us through their friends and family members.  Others find out about us through programs and services, such as the welfare office, the probation office, or the high school.  We also post flyers in the community and use the local media to spread the word.  

Are the students attending the program voluntarily?
Most are, but others are mandated to be there by a judge or probation officer, their welfare social worker, or their parents. 

How long do students stay involved? 
It varies widely.  Some students are ready to test for the GED after only 3 months.  Others may stay for many years and work on a variety of academic and life skills.   

Do you have to deal with discipline issues in the classes?
Not often, though the issue does come up.  Since we work with adults and the program is voluntary, we ask students who are not ready to focus on their learning to take a break and come back another time. 

The Agency

Is The Literacy Project part of a statewide or national programs?
No.  While we work collaboratively with other literacy programs, we are not part of a larger institution.  We are an independent, tax-exempt, non-profit organization. 

How is The Literacy Project funded?
The primary funder is the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  Other funds come from other state-level government sources such as the Community Development Block Grants and the Department of Transitional Assistance.  We also receive grants from foundations, private donors and local businesses. Read more at Our Supporters.  

Common Concerns

I’m probably younger than/older than most of the students.  Is that okay?
Yes.  People of all ages can be wonderful volunteers, as long as they have respect for the students they work with. 

I’m not good at math.  Do I have to teach it?
If you can follow a recipe, make change for the bus, and estimate a discount at a store, you already know enough to be helpful!  You don’t have to be a math whiz.  You just have to be willing to work together with the students to figure out the answers.  (And don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book!)

If the idea of working with math still bothers you, you may be able to arrange with the teacher to work with the lower-level math students, or come in to tutor on days when other subjects are taught.  

Should I brush up on grammar before I start tutoring?
You don’t need to.  There’s no need for you to know any more formal grammar than you already use in daily life.  Any additional information that you may need will be in our materials. 

For more information, contact Margaret Anderson, Volunteer Coordinator, 413-774-3934, ext. 15, margaret@literacyproject.org