Frequently Asked Questions
We're so glad you're working to grow as a volunteer with SALT. In this section, you'll find some of the best advice of those who have been tutoring for 10+ years.
Who do I talk to if I have a question about a tutoring session?
We are working toward the goal of every tutor working as a team with another tutor, a Shepherd/Leader overseeing a group of 3-5 pairs, and above that, a Coordinator overseeing a geographic location. Please proceed up that progression with questions or concerns. If there is a concern that doesn’t get resolved, you can email the Director of SALT.
What is the best way to handle the Gospel part of what we’re doing?
Our mission says that we "Share Jesus with our Somali neighbors"– do you recall by what means? - "through Literacy and Friendship." Focus on being a friend, and that will guide many of your decisions.
Secondly, our efforts, no matter how earnest, cannot "make" our Somali neighbors believe anything. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to guide all of us. So be listening to the Lord for what He is doing and join in.
Lastly, our Somali neighbors aren’t interested in being "a project." If your sole purpose of being around your Somali neighbor is to convert them, turning away if they don’t accept the Gospel, you may want to take a second look at our mission statement. We do want our Somali neighbors to learn about the Lord, the Scriptures, and all He has to offer. But consider how Jesus lived. He listened to His Father and walked out the Truth naturally through this relationship. If you are reading the Word, let the retelling of Bible stories be a part of your normal conversations. (“Can I tell you a story I read this morning?”) Your Somali neighbor shouldn’t be surprised or feel like a project.
Where do I go for resources like worksheets, good websites and the like?
What do I do if my Somali neighbor gives signals that they don’t want to continue the tutoring time?
It’s OK to be straightforward with your neighbor. There may be times when they don't communicate with you or don't show up to a session. It’s possible they simply have a busy life or are forgetful. But asking the question, “Is this working well for you, or would something else work better?” is valid.
Ask if you are communicating in the best way for your Somali neighbor. For instance, are they primarily a ‘text-er’? Then work hard to text them the day before to ask if everything works for tomorrow.
Are they getting their goals met? If you haven’t asked your Somali neighbor what their educational goals are, you might be missing the target.
Is your partner feeling the same way? If your partner tutor is feeling differently, talk it out to find out their thoughts.
If after talking with your partner, your shepherd/leader, and your Somali neighbor, you decide it still isn’t working, we can arrange for another pair to work with them. It is possible that they might not be in a good place for tutors at this time. Leave on a positive note, giving them SALT contact information if their situation changes: “Thank you so much for the time we’ve had together. I’ve enjoyed getting to know your family. Every season is different for each family, and if your family wants to have tutoring again, please contact my leader, ___(name)___ at (612) ___ - ______. May God bless you. Sincerely, ________.”
A reminder that the month of Ramadan is a natural break for the family. They are focused on fasting and may want to take a break from tutoring.
What should I wear when going to tutor?
This is a good question, because dressing modestly is culturally significant for Somalis. We try to walk a middle ground. We want to honor our neighbors by not offending them, but not set up a "legalistic mentality" where we list 58 rules on what to wear.
For the men, it’s a good idea to aim for "business casual." Dress like you consider tutoring important, and they will take you more seriously. Avoid torn clothing, T-shirts with alcohol or other similar logos, and shorts.
For the women, it can only help you to dress in "business casual" or modest attire. When your attire reflects an educational mindset, it will increase their respect for you as a tutor. Keep a high neckline, cover your shoulders, and wear dresses or pants that cover down to your knees.
It is not required to "dress like a Muslim" to fit in. That might cause confusion. (If women travel to Muslim countries, it is expected in their culture to cover their heads; in the U.S. it is not the norm).
What should I bring to a tutoring session?
Here is a short list of basic items to bring. (To get a more complete list, as well as tips and hints on how to effectively use the items, attend the next SALT 101/102 training).
Whiteboard, markers, eraser
Notebook and paper
Pencil, pen, eraser
Current textbook you are using
Blank index cards
Corner cut out "word isolator"
When the time we set up doesn’t work, what should I do?
Hopefully you have the best contact method for your Somali neighbor, whether it be email, text, or phone. If you don’t know what they prefer, now is a good time to ask!
Connect if at all possible before your tutoring session: “Does 6:30 tomorrow night work for tutoring?”
Let them know if you can’t make an upcoming meeting time and suggest a couple other options. If those times don’t work, you can even set up a short time to talk on the phone where they will get some solid practice speaking English.
If you have to skip a whole week, try to provide a lesson that you know they can try on their own for homework.
Can men tutor women, or women tutor men?
We strive to pair women with women, and men with men.
If you are a couple or mixed gender tutor pair, you have many options.
If you are two women, you can usually be flexible with one helping the mom, and one helping the dad in the same room.
If you are two men, it’s sometimes functional – but fathers aren’t always present, and that can make things more difficult.
In a classroom setting, we take efforts to pair men with men and women with women, but the context of the classroom makes it more possible to have different gender tutoring (we do encourage the men to sit across the table from the women).
What do I saw if they ask me questions about my church, Jesus, the Bible, or what I think about Muhammad?
First off, listen to the Lord. He will guide you as you prayerfully proceed.
Second, we work hard to not put down or chastise the Muslim faith, including Muhammad. They do not need us to point out the brokenness of Islam. They live in it and know about it better than we do. When I have been asked what I think about Muhammad, I have said, "I think it is very good that he did not want people to follow after many gods – there is only one God." Check out Crescent Project’s Bridges DVD series for a winsome path to connect with Muslims.
Third, it’s wonderful if they feel that you are a safe person to talk about faith.
Fourth, if you are, from the beginning, clearly and kindly communicating that you are a follower of Jesus Messiah (a good term to use to help them understand where your allegiance lies), they will usually appreciate your honesty and strength of faith.
Fifth, ask questions and tell stories. This was Jesus' way. God’s Word is powerful. If they ask you about the Bible, you can say, “That is a good question. What do know about the Bible?” After they tell you, mention a related Bible story. For instance, if they say it has stories of the prophets, you can say something like, “Yes, I was just reading in the Bible about Moses in the wilderness. The people he was leading were complaining that they were thirsty. So he went to the Lord, and asked for help. He was told to strike a rock, and water came flowing out. Have you heard that story before? It reminds me of how God provides for us.”
What can I do to become a better tutor?
Attend SALT-sponsored trainings.
Partner with another tutor - two heads are better than one.
Pray for SALT, the students, and volunteers.
Keep an ear attuned to the needs of your friend.
Invite your Somali neighbor along to what you are doing in your day-to-day life.
Celebrate success with fun activities, potlucks, gathering with other students, awards, etc.
Communicate regularly with your SALT coordinator.
Bring along a friend who can learn what you are doing.