1-on-1 Mentoring Allows Us to Challenge, Not Just Teach

1-on-1 Mentoring Allows Us to Challenge, Not Just Teach

Breakout Mentors has a unique approach to helping kids learn to code – we primarily do 1-on-1 mentoring and occasionally small groups capped at 4 kids. Our goal is to provide a depth in kids programming education that isn’t available anywhere else. To achieve a depth in an optional subject like Computer Science, it is vital that the student enjoys it. Therefore, we focus on engagement and keeping it fun through creativity.

Challenging students is a great way to drive engagement. The typical kid Breakout Mentors works with is above average in math and not pushed in this area in school. In a class of 30, it is nearly impossible to support a couple of kids surging ahead, especially until later in middle school and high school when students can be placed into different classes like Trigonometry or Calculus. These students want to be challenged!

The logical thinking skills required in math are also required in programming. Additionally, there are no expectations of what an 11 year old beginner programmer should be able to accomplish in a given time period. They can be challenged and move at the pace that is best for them, not the pace set by other 29 kids.

Classes can challenge students as well, but because there are so many students, the results for any given student are sink or swim. Take a 5th grader that is good at math and put him in an Algebra class. He might rise to the challenge and do great. Or he might struggle, need additional help, and decide maybe he actually isn’t good at math. This is the outcome that must be avoided.

In a 1-on-1 environment we can offer a lot more hand holding so it never gets to that point. Our programming mentors are able to adjust the difficulty to the perfect level for each student. They are able to cater to each individual student’s persistence and frustration level.

One of our mentors related this to a concept in psychology called flow. It is defined by Wikipedia as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”


Looking at the above chart, the 1-on-1 programming mentor’s job is to ensure the student is operating in the flow channel. Just the right amount of challenge for their skill level. As their skills increase, so does the magnitude of the challenge.

In summary, 1-on-1 mentoring allows Breakout Mentors to focus on problem solving, not simply teaching programming concepts. If you’d like to determine if your student is ready for a mentor, please contact us today.

Photo: West Point

Posted by Brian Skinner / Posted on 05 Mar