Dr. Lamar McWaine

Interim Director of Diverse Student Populations,
San Jacinto College, Houston, TX

How has your LifeBound coaching helped you to help students during COVID-19?

LifeBound coaching strategies and techniques have proven to be very helpful as I’ve supported students this semester. During COVID-19, LifeBound training has helped me to stay focused on the students’ perspective when they share issues they are dealing with. My role is not to provide all of the answers to students. I just need to be able to ask powerful questions that leads a student to providing and implementing their own answers to their individualized situations.

What are the biggest equity issues caused by COVID-19 that coaching can address?  What are the limits of coaching in the virtual environment?

Many of the equity disparities we see weren’t created by COVID-19, but the pandemic is exposing disparities. Some of these issues include a lack of basic resources such as food, having limited to no internet access at home, having full responsibility of meeting the daily needs of siblings while assisting them with schoolwork while parent(s) are working “essential” front line jobs during the day. As a result, many students and their families have had to make a choice between paying bills that provide internet access or providing food or other necessities for their family. Other students may have internet access but only on their phones while some have only one computer to share among several siblings and parents that are all now doing K-12 and college work online. The digital divide is real and can affect educational opportunities.

 

Coaching can help to address these equity issues by providing students with an opportunity to voice their concerns and talk through the challenges they are facing. It is important to remember that as a coach it is not our place to provide students with all of the answers, but we do need to be able to help them see the possibilities. In order to do that we, as coaches, need to make it our business to be aware of resources that can be helpful to students during this time (local, state, federal, and institutional). Those of us at educational institutions need to be particularly mindful to stay abreast of temporary changes to policies and procedures such as academic advising, financial aid, course drop options, tuition refunds/waivers, etc.


How can you use coaching skills beyond the 1:1 to 1 to several or one to many?

Have a virtual discussion with several students at a time, especially when you know they may share the same obstacles.  These sessions could even lead students to helping each other when, as a coach, you are asking the right questions.  

How else can you encourage faculty to be effective in virtual environments during COVID-19 based on your work and feedback from your students?

First, it is important to remember that nothing about this situation is normal so don’t approach it that way. For those that had very little or no experience teaching online before COVID-19, don’t expect to be an online teaching expert by the end of this semester. Use the summer months as an opportunity to participate in professional development to prepare for possible future disruptions.

 

Students need us to be flexible during this unprecedented time. Faculty should be as flexible as possible, while still maintaining academic rigor. Use your academic freedom to find creative ways to help students. Reach out to students and let them know you are there to help. More importantly, share with them specifically how you can help and inform students about institutional resources. Be creative in finding ways to create community virtually. Social distancing does not mean social isolation.

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