Volunteer Training

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

Welcome to the online portion of the Collierville Literacy Council volunteer tutor training. Thank you for giving your time to learn more about our students and how we - and you - can help them in a very real, personal way.

This is the first part of Volunteer Training.  Since many of our students overlap in more than one program, you will do the activities for all three programs  (HiSET, Adult Basic Education, and ESL) online.  The in-person training will be specific to the program of your choice. 

When you register for your in-person training session, please tell the office which training program you will attend (ESL, HiSET,or Adult Basic Literacy).

1) Please print out the checklist and use as a guide to ensure you have completed all the activities. 

2) Read the information provided, watch and videos, etc.  Make sure to print out and fill in the quiz/quizzes in each section. You will bring these to your in-person training.

3) Please sign the bottom of all quizzes and sign the release forms.  Please attach a photocopy of your Driver’s License and the $25 materials fee. 

4) Please call the CLC (901-854-0288) and register for an in-person training session.  You will select one of our three programs to break out into.

Thank you!

Please download the Volunteer Application, Volunteer Handbook, the Waiver, and the Job Description

Please print and take the quiz on the Handbook. 

Please take this quiz on the History of the Collierville Literacy Council. 

Why is what we do important?

Please watch the video to see our students and learn more about what we do.

We'll talk more about the statistics of each program and how your help as a volunteer tutor makes an impact on an individual and in our community.

How much time do we ask of you?

We can help you fit volunteering into your schedule in a variety of ways.

As a Tutor, we ask that you give 2-3 hours a week for 6 weeks. You choose the hours that you are available! We ask that you are able to meet consistently with a student one-on-one or in a small group.

As a Volunteer, whether that is in our office or at a special event, we ask that you complete the time that you commit to.

As an Instructor writing curriculum for Google Classroom, or helping in our Learn to Earn or Citizenship programs, we ask that you complete the assignment you commit to.

As a Navigator, you'll work with graduated students for a year after they graduate with their diploma to help them with schooling and career advice, including resume writing, interviewing, or possible tutoring once they are in school. Some weeks may require more time than others.

Where do our students come from?

Our students come from across Shelby County, TN, and into west TN, and northern MS. The zip codes we serve the most are 38125, 38141, 38115, 38018.

We are unique because we serve adults 17+ individually, based on their needs. Other agencies provide large group classes, or focus on other areas of literacy.

Who are our students?

Our students come from varied backgrounds, cultures and way of life. We learn about each student individually using assessments of their current life and resilience to overcome barriers.

The Arizona assessment below helps us determine if our students are able to focus on testing and learning. For instance, if our students score this as mostly 1, we refer our students to other agencies to help them secure more stable housing and support. If we ask you to tutor a student, the profile of the vast majority has 3s. In this assessment, we know from experience that the lower the scoring for housing, transportation, and childcare, the less likely a student will continue to come to tutoring or continue their testing. We will discuss each student's situation with you so you are aware of their personal situation.

Arizona assessment

If students are in a stable situation, we will ask them how able they are to overcome roadblocks using the resilience test below.

Resilience measurement

We do this to better understand how likely students are able to overcome situations where they may fail an assessment, or not meet personal goals. When scoring this test, the more a student chooses 1 or 2, the more likely a student will be unable to complete a program of study. We will discuss with them the possibility of mental health support from a partner agency, or a point of contact in their home, friend group, or religious home that can help them improve their score. The profile of a student that we match with a tutor generally includes mostly 3s. If a student matches with you as a tutor but has a borderline or low resilience score, we will discuss that with you.

How do help students continue progressing?

Your time as a volunteer helps people on a deeply personal level. You are the key to unlocking their ability to learn and continue progressing through six “Drivers of Persistence,” greatly enhancing their chances for educational and career success.

  • Stability - structure, predictability, continuity Oftentimes, ABE students have not had much (if any) formal education, or have had negative experiences in education. Many have experienced chaos in the form of war, violence, dislocation, drugs, poverty and/or assault. These conditions can cause chronic stress, which actually changes body chemistry, leaving one more susceptible to the effects of acute stress like not knowing what to expect in the classroom. You can help by orienting your student to the meeting location, showing them to classrooms, introducing them to teachers and other students, explaining the school rules and expectations and being a consistent person for the student to go to with questions.

  • Sense of Belonging - feeling cared for, appreciated, understood and recognized You meet one-on-one or in a small group with the same students every week as a Tutor, or for a specific committed period of time. This allows a relationship to form, and trust to develop, because students know they can count on you to be there when you say you will be. Encourage students, listen to their goals and difficulties in achieving them and celebrate their successes.

  • Agency - the capacity for human beings to make things happen through their actions You will find information with students, rather than for students. It is perfectly fine to say "I don't know, but let's find out." This results in the student learning through doing, and students feel you are their partner in helping them. Students are encouraged to ask for what they need and focus on what is important to them.

  • Clarity of Purpose - setting meaningful goals You work with students to focus on visualizing long-term goals, and then set very short-term, stepping-stone goals to work on together. This is dictated by what is important to the student: why he or she is in school, or what they are looking for in a career or job. Once a student completes a goal, you will work together on setting the next short-term goal.

  • Competence/Self Efficacy - a person’s belief in their own capacity to meet goals and to learn new things Many adult learners have a difficult time seeing the progress they are making. You will help students look at the big picture over time, and point out positive changes in abilities, attitudes, effort, learning strategies, etc. Each week, you can help them see their progress by pointing out something that is easier than it used to be, how it relates to their every day life or goals, or that they really learned something new. We use quarterly reports to help measure these changes and ask that you report progress in your Tutor Monthly Report.

  • Relevance - connect what they are learning to their goals You work with students to personalize learning objectives to meet the students' goals. As an example, it is fine to relate fractions to cooking, civics to understanding elections, and reading to their ability to read the sports page, if those are their goals.

What is your role in helping a student, and what traits are important?

Tutors don't have to have a teaching background or knowledge in a certain subject.

The Role of the Tutor

  • Become a trusted connection at school

  • Establish a positive, caring relationship

  • Help students set and track progress towards goals

  • Encourage students, cheer accomplishments and point out improvements

  • Orient students to school expectations, layout and people

  • Teach study and test taking skills and strategies

  • Help prepare for jobs (mock interviews, applications, resumes)

Traits of a Good Tutor

A good tutor is:

  • Empathetic

  • Patient

  • Flexible

  • Persistent

  • Creative problem solver

  • Likes to learn and has solid research skills

  • Shows willingness to understand student (language, wishes, hopes, problems)

  • Ability to set boundaries and say “no”

  • Excellent interpersonal skills

  • Believes in the dignity of a person and has respect for the student’s ideas and goals

Please take the Quiz on the above section about the Arizona Assessment, Resilience Measure, and Role and Traits of a Tutor. 

Student Snapshots

Consider the students below. What are their barriers to meeting their goals? Are they likely to come to tutoring consistently? How could you use the Drivers of Persistence to help them?

Ann: Ann is in her 60s and works in commercial cleaning. She owns her own business. She has tried to get her high school diploma for years, but never completed the process. She is coming now because she is tired of paying her accountant to do her business taxes. Ann needs a little help in all of her subjects, other than math, where she needs a lot of help. Ann doesn’t take this news hard; she says she’d better get to work.

Kevin: Kevin is 18. His mother passed away three weeks ago and his sister is threatening to kick him out of her house, at which point he can stay with friends for a little while but is worried he will be homeless. He takes on two jobs in food service to try to pay the rent so he can stay in the house. His assessment comes back that his education is on a 5th grade level.

Lucy: Lucy is in her 20s. She never completed high school because her family moved and she didn’t re-enroll. She has a small baby and lives with her parents. She struggles to complete her initial testing because she can only get babysitting help for a short time. She says that she has severe, unmedicated ADHD, and is scared of failure. She wants perfect scores on her tests.

Courtney: Courtney is 18, and was homeschooled, but wants a diploma. She is working 80 hours a week as a retail manager, but not making much money at all. She wants a promotion. Courtney is frustrated by the process and is studying on her own.

Rachel: Rachel is in her 40s. She and her husband are getting a divorce. He left the home last month. Rachel knows she needs to go back to work. She left school in the 9th grade and will need help to get her diploma. She enrolled in a class this semester.

Clara: Clara is in her 30s. She doesn’t remember going to school beyond kindergarten, and has tried to get her diploma several times over the past few years.  She recently found her brother deceased from an apparent suicide. 

Tony: Tony is from Italy and has been in the U.S. for 3 weeks. He moved here to be with his daughter and son in-law.  He does not speak any English besides, “hi;” He was a piano teacher in his country and would like to teach private lessons to earn some income; we assessed his English level and was placed in a beginners ESL group class and he was given a tutor too.

Maria: Maria is from Spain and has moved to the U.S. one month ago; she was a lawyer and understands some English.  She is very motivated to learn English because she wants to find a good paying job to help support her family at home.  Her assessment score placed her at an intermediate level; she was placed in an Intermediate ESL group class and was given a tutor.

Consider the student snapshots. How likely are students to engage in a program? Complete their goals? Who would need more support before they begin studying? We will discuss these student snapshots in our in-person training. 

What We Tutor

  • High School Equivalency (HiSET)

  • Learn to Earn

  • Adult Basic Education

  • English as a Second Language

  • Citizenship


This is the HiSET Fact Sheet for a student to get their High School Equivalency diploma with the HiSET test. This approach is designed to help students feel confident in their skills so they will take the HISET test.

This video shows how a relationship with a caring person helps people continue.

Why do people drop out?

The term "high school dropout" often leads people to have a certain image of an individual. There are many reasons people drop out of school. This video highlights some of them. The number one reason we hear of why our adults drop out of school is that a parent was sick, injured, or lost their job, and that person had to step in to help provide income.

  • Every year, one in six young adults—more than 1.2 million—drop out of high school. Recent data show that nearly 30 percent of adults with household incomes at or below the federal poverty line do not have a high school credential. The key to financial success is a viable career path and adequate education to seek meaningful, family-supporting wages. The value to our economy in additional wages and the reduction in costs for various support programs is estimated at more than $200 billion a year. 

  • Seventy-five percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate. Ninety-five percent of those incarcerated are reintegrated into our communities. Research shows that inmates who are educated are 43 percent less likely to return to prison. 

  • Our nation’s education assessment is largely based on graduation rate. In 2012, Black students had only a 69% graduation rate and Hispanic students had a 73% rate, while Asian students had an 88% graduation rate and Caucasian students had an 86% rate.

  • 30 years ago, America was the leader in quantity and quality of high school diplomas. Today, our nation is ranked 36th in the world.

  • 1.3 million high school students don't graduate on time yearly. States with highest rates (80-89%) are Wisconsin, Iowa, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. States with lowest (less than 60%) are Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia and S. Carolina.

  • If the 1.3 million dropouts from the Class of 2010 had graduated, the nation would have seen $337 billion more in earnings over the course of the students’ lifetimes.

  • The average dropout can expect to earn an annual income of $20,241, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s a full $10,386 less than the typical high school graduate, and $36,424 less than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

  • Of course, simply finding a job is also much more of a challenge for dropouts. While the national unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent in August, joblessness among those without a high school degree measured 12 percent. Among college graduates, it was 4.1 percent.

  • The same study (PDF) found that as a result — when compared to the typical high school graduate — a dropout will end up costing taxpayers an average of $292,000 over a lifetime due to the price tag associated with incarceration and other factors such as how much less they pay in taxes.

For more information:





Please take this quiz on the HiSET program. 

Learn to Earn

We help students with career awareness testing and a following 12-week program on workplace readiness and communication. We do need volunteers to help with the 12-week session.

Learn to Earn Program

Adult Basic Education (ABE)

Our ABE program helps those students who perform in reading, writing, and math below a third grade level. Our HSE students may become ABE students in certain subjects. Or, you have students like Joe, in the video below, who come the CLC learning phonics. If you are interested in working with a student like Joe, we will give you specific curriculum and instruction to best fit that student's needs and level.

Please take the quiz on Adult Basic Education program.

That instruction will include phonemic awareness. The vast majority of students who are weak readers and poor spellers have poor phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is NOT the same as phonics!  Please watch this short video as an introduction to this important reading instruction piece.

English as a Second Language

Life is full of starts and stops. That is why lots of adults who are learning ESL are what we call false beginners. They feel and act like they are beginners, but they have actually tried to learn English before. This is important because it means you are not starting from complete zero—they have some residual learning which you need to awaken. It is a great place to start, because learning English as an adult can be a scary proposition for many reasons.

Why Is Teaching ESL to Adults Any Different? Unlike carefree children, adults may be feeling quite stressed as they first poke their noses into your classroom. As the teacher, you need to be aware that there could be all sorts of things in their lives that make these lessons extra stressful.

  • maybe they had English lessons way back when they were still in school, but somehow the lessons didn’t stick and now they need to start again.

  • maybe their whole school experience for some reason was frustrating and unhappy. 

  • maybe they are generally skilled at their job but their boss insists they need to learn English. 

  • maybe they have migrated or are planning to do so (possibly under very difficult circumstances) and they need to learn English to be successful in their new country.

  • maybe their children and other family members may have already gone ahead and learned faster than them—or maybe the whole family is relying on this one person to learn English and help them adapt.

  • maybe they are afraid that they are too old and therefore unable to learn.

  • if they have taken the leap and put themselves “out there” enough to have arrived in your ESL class, or if they are working one-on-one with you, then they are trusting you to make sure that they are not wasting their time.

While kids generally love surprises, adults often prefer to avoid surprises because they are afraid:

  • of seeming undignified

  • of being made to look silly in front of others

  • of “losing face,” which is a very important concept in some cultures

  • of failing—again

That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have fun! It just means you do not want to scare them off with too many spontaneous activities or by putting them in the “hot seat,” answering questions in front of the entire class.

So how can you make sure that your adult students are having fun?

  • make sure you provide an activity-based program—not just “chalk and talk.”

  • make sure that they are involved and engaged—not just spectating.

  • make sure that they succeed in their learning by checking in regularly.

  • make sure that they notice that they are succeeding, and encourage self-confidence.

  • make sure you encourage them to keep going even if they feel like they are failing. Mistakes are all part of the learning process.

From: fluentu.com/blog/educator-english/how-to-teach-esl-to-adults/

The video below shows how adults learn languages, and why language instruction for adults is different from teaching children.

Please take the quiz on the English as a Second Language program. 

Citizenship Class

Twice a year, we will offer a Citizenship class to help our ESL students who want to earn their US Citizenship. We will review the required curriculum and have an immigration attorney speak to the class. We do occasionally need volunteers to help with this class. 

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