Hardly have time to eat your lunch? You’re not alone. Most student supervisors are in the same boat. The good news is that you don’t have to stay back until midnight to be a good supervisor. Here are some creative ways to support your student while you do the million other things on your list, drawn from a combination of supervisor’s experiences.
Set aside 10 minutes at the start and end of each day to check in specifically with your student. Your student will feel assured, even if you have had a crazy day running around, that they will get to see/talk to you at the end and start of each day.
Pre schedule your supervision sessions at the beginning of the placement and put the dates in your diary.
Allow your student to shadow you at meetings. Your student will have a great learning opportunity observing how professional meetings are conducted and how to participate.
Use driving time to reflect on or discuss the meeting or client visit you just attended.
Arrange for your student to spend a day shadowing each member of your team to learn about the different roles or alternatively in a neighbouring program. Ask the student to write up a reflection about their experience - what did they learn/observe? - to be discussed during supervision.
Ask your student to analyse the nature of your program and develop a project (research or practical) that they would like to work on that adds value to the program and/ or enhances client outcomes. You may direct them in particular areas you have been wanting to spend time on yourself but have run out of time, for example, reviewing the access to service pathway etc.
Can your student create any resources that would be helpful to your team or program - e.g. an ER list for your local community? A ‘what’s on for free’ for school holidays for clients? This is an activity that can allow the student to develop their resource linkage skills by contacting other services and identifying the information.
Identify other team members who have particular strengths e.g. facilitating groups and arrange for your student to spend some time being mentored by this team member.
Get your student to identify an area of practice they are interested in or are passionate about and that is relevant to your service, e.g. mental health, aged care and get them to do some research/critical analysis on what is available in the community to support these clients. Ask them to prepare a presentation and present it to the rest of the team.
Nominate a ‘back up’ person that your student can go to for support if you are too busy or pulled into a last minute meeting.
Get groovy and use technology. If you can’t be in the same place as your student for your normal supervision - then have a skype session, or ask them to film their reflections and send it to you - lots of ways to communicate cyberally!
Don’t know how to use skype? Then get your student to problem solve by designing a workshop to walk you or other team member how to use skype or other technology.
Don’t have the technology? Then ask your student to find out where people can get cheap or free access to the internet e.g .local university or library. Then get them to print up a "where to go guide" or a “how to use guide” as a resource for self and the agency.
Establish a “question/observation” box or folder. When things come to mind for you or the student but you can’t talk about it there and then, record it on a piece a paper and put it in the box. Explore the contents at your next supervision. After discussion get the student to keep a register of “question box” content and the outcome of the discussion – at the end of placement you will be surprised at how many areas you covered together. You could also have a reflection board in the office or a graffiti board where comments could be posted.
Encourage your student to foster a peer support network e.g. rotate their meetings locations to combine an agency visit and/or request the different supervisors take time to facilitate discussion.
Design a rolling student project. That can be handed over and kept up over a number of placement semesters e.g. collecting client feedback, or being involved in an ongoing group activity e.g. playgroup, participating in an ongoing evaluation program.
Combine informal supervision opportunities with a mundane activity. One example is, once a fortnight it was my turn to prepare for the staff lunch so I would use that preparation time to talk to the student about what was happening for them. Added bonus would be that we would get the work done really quickly and have time for a coffee and extended chat.
Great how a mutual activity relaxes people and cuts the power imbalance. One of the best talks I had with a student was when we were helping out with Under 8’s week. Just sitting making badges for the kids created a great space just to talk.
Let the student be your “eyes”. Communities change all the time and it is hard to keep up so ask your student to spend time just observing community activity e.g. the local shopping centre is a magnet for young people after school as is the bus interchange or café. The student can observe what is happening in terms of people movement and management, types of interactions, key hot spots. Do this over time and see what the trend is. It”s an easy way to keep up to date and build some interesting supervision discussions.