Questions & Answers for Tutors
How do I become a tutor?
- Make a minimum nine-month volunteer commitment of an hour weekly, fill out a Tutor Application and CORI form, attend a five session tutor training workshop (highly recommended but not required), and speak with the coordinator who will match you with an adult learner or learners.
What qualifications do I need to be a tutor?
- We need people who can speak English fluently and articulate clearly. Being a good listener and having an interest in/sensitivity to other cultures help. Since every student has different needs and abilities, you will design lessons and solve some problems independently. Having some initiative and creativity is a plus. Of course, you can always contact the Program Coordinator with any questions you may have.
Why is a minimum nine month commitment required?
- It takes some time for tutors and students to get accustomed to working together and to begin to achieve some momentum. It can be very discouraging for students to get used to a new tutor (or be placed back on a waiting list) every few months, and, of course, it slows down progress.
I will be out of town for 2 or 3 months in the summer (or winter). Can I still be a tutor?
- Yes. In each of those cases it is best to start tutoring as soon as you return to the area.
Are people with disabilities welcome as tutors?
- As long as you are able to hear and speak clearly, we will try to find a placement that will work well for you (and your student).
Can college students volunteer as tutors?
- Yes, as long as you're able to make at least a two semester commitment.
Do I need to speak the language of my student?
- No. ELL teachers use English to teach English. The training workshop will provide you with a variety of techniques for teaching English without the need for translation.
When are the training workshops?
- They are normally scheduled on Thursday evenings in late-September/October and mid-April/May, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in January, and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in July. Check online or with the coordinator for the dates of the next training workshop.
What will I learn in the ELL tutor training workshop?
- Fundamental concepts of student assessment, lesson planning, how adults learn, second language acquisition, error correction, the sounds of English, communicating across cultures, and various activities for teaching speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Is it possible to skip the training and begin tutoring right away?
- In some cases it is possible to make a placement with a student in between workshops, especially if you already have relevant training or experience. You can always attend a future workshop if you want.
What time of day do tutors meet their students?
- It depends on your schedule. For example, if you have free time in the morning, you will be placed with a student who also has free time in the morning. Tutors can meet with students in the morning, afternoon, evening, or weekends.
Where does the tutoring take place?
- There are two Literacy Rooms on the third floor with sign-up sheets and study rooms on the second and third floors that can be used on a first come, first served basis. The rooms are available for tutors to use during regular library hours, but you can meet anywhere that is convenient for you and your student. For example, some groups meet at Starbucks, Panera Bread, the Waban Library Center, etc.
How much time is involved?
- Tutors generally meet with students once a week for an hour. Some students or small groups (2-3) may meet for up to 90 minutes. You and your student(s) can work out the schedule that seems best for your particular situation.
I want to practice my Spanish (or another language). Can I do a language exchange with a student who speaks this language?
- No. You are a volunteer providing a service and we do not ask anything from our students in exchange for this service.
How will I be matched with a student?
- During the tutor training workshop the Program Coordinator receives a Summary Report of the ELL Assessment Interviews. The report describes the various students waiting for tutors along with their schedules. The coordinator will contact you and, if possible, will then offer several possible students for you to select from.
What if my student and I just don't "click"?
- Most pairs work well together, but occasionally things don't work out. There are always students on the waiting list, so we'll work on a new placement for you without hard feelings.
How many tutors and students are currently in the program?
- At present we have about 375 tutors working with about 500 students.
Why/how do immigrants come to the U.S.?
- Some are refugees who have left their countries due to religious/political persecution. Others have received immigrant visas through family members who are naturalized or as spouses of U.S. citizens. There are a number of families who came as dependents of a foreign student who eventually secured employment with a US company. A few are even winners of the “diversity visa lottery” program. In almost every case, people decided to come to/stay in the U.S. because they believed there were better opportunities for themselves and their children here.
Why/how do immigrants end up in the Newton area?
- Often they come here to join family members or friends in the area. Sometimes immigrants tell us that they believe Newton is a quiet, safe, and friendly place and that they like the schools here. Some of our students have come here to do research or work in area hospitals.
Do the students have any formal education already?
- Some are former professionals, or even PhD's in their native countries. Others have never had the opportunity to study, even in their native language. Some can read English but don't understand it when it is spoken rapidly. Others have learned to speak English, but can read very little. There is a wide variety of needs, interests and abilities among the students in the program, and this is why instruction is tailored to each individual student.
What languages do the students speak?
- The majority of our students come from Russian-speaking countries, China, and South Korea. Then we have students from all over the world who speak Japanese, Spanish, Farsi, Portuguese and many other languages.
How long does it take for a limited English speaker to become fluent in English?
- This varies a great deal, depending on the individual's previous education, age, daily exposure to English, level of motivation, level of support from family members/co-workers, etc. Some students stay in the program for several years. Others study for a shorter amount of time, then move on to other programs/opportunities.
What do the adult students want to learn?
- Different students ask for help with different things. Most students want to improve their listening/speaking skills and would like to be able to communicate better in everyday life (e.g. with co-workers, neighbors, school personnel, health care providers, on the phone, etc.). Some also want to be able to read and write better for everyday life or in the workplace. Some students have a specific goal in mind, such as getting a job, a driver’s license, or a GED, becoming a U.S. citizen, or passing a college entrance test. After some time in the U.S. immigrants may be able to communicate basic information without difficulty, but they often say that they want to be able to discuss topics/ideas that are more sophisticated than the basic “survival” topics that occupy beginners in their first few years.
What kind of assistance will be available to me once I get started tutoring?
- The coordinator can help you find materials and identify activities/strategies that would be appropriate for your student. The Library has an extensive literacy collection that includes books on CDs, Playaways, and DVDs. If you are having difficulties of some kind with your student, the coordinator will try to find out what the problem is and help you work out a solution. Tutor roundtables are also offered quarterly and special guests are invited whenever possible to lead workshops. We also have a blog, Talk Time for Tutors, with teaching ideas as well as other resources on this site.
Does the program sponsor any social events?
- Yes. Twice a year, in May or June and December, we have potluck suppers. We enjoy delicious international cuisine and fine company. We always have a great time!
How do I contact the coordinator?
- Susan Bécam’s regular schedule is Monday-Friday, 9:00 to 5:30 pm. Her office, Room 3A, is located in the Language and Literacy Center on the third floor. It would be best to make an appointment with Susan to make sure she is available. You can leave a message anytime at 617-796-1364 or at NewtonELL@minlib.net and she will respond as promptly as possible.