ACADEMIC MENTORING

Questions and answers with Jared Kallen

Q: Why do young people need mentoring?


Jared Kallen: Good mentors model the right actions, attitudes, approach, structure and behaviors that clients will profit from—often exponentially. Mentors frequently succeed where others, such as parents or teachers, have failed simply by virtue of the fact that they are a neutral third party and can be objective. It is easy for me to practice “tough love” when it’s not my child. Due to the pandemic, now more than ever, young people are experiencing record levels of depression, anxiety, despair, and lack of direction. A good mentor will shift a young person’s mindset, model a robust course of action, and gently hold them accountable. Many “traditional” mentors, such as corporate managers, educators or religious leaders, are inundated and do not have the time, resources, or energy to guide young people. I act exactly the way I want my clients to act. It is never theoretical. I show them how I am applying the very same approach to my life. The idea is that young people will see that I am happy and fulfilled and want what I have. Thus, they are more prone to adopt my approach/toolkit.




Q: How is mentoring an important part of being an effective educational coach?


Jared Kallen: A good mentor communicates quickly when his clients get confused or stuck. I am just a text away to provide guidance or strategy in between our weekly sessions. Most mentors do not make themselves available 24/7, and so many students give up until the next session—and thus time and money are lost. I reinforce what I taught in the last session in between sessions, so we don’t have to repeat it. Continuity is king!




Q: How do you approach mentoring? What is your philosophy?


Jared Kallen: A good mentor is highly empathetic and encouraging. Simple phrases like, “I get it,” “I have been right where you are now,” “I got you,” and “You do you,” provide unconditional approval right when many students need it the most. They are, after all, trying to decide who they want to be and how they want to be identified. We are trying to alter the young person’s response from “I’ll think about it” to “Yes, I will get it done!” I communicate to my clients that they are never alone. Everyone has had “issues” or “struggles” and the goal is to unite in common suffering and surmount it.




Q: How do you establish rapport with your students?


Jared Kallen: I create a bond with my students by sharing my own story—which eons ago was about lack of motivation, depression and lack of direction—and eventually what turned my situation around. What did change my life was consistency of behaviors, rinse and repeat. Now more than ever, students cannot be lectured or “talked to.” In an age of videogames and iPhone snapchats, they need to be fully engaged and entertained. I offer this to my clients in spades.




Q: What personal qualities make you an effective mentor to students?


Jared Kallen: I’m entertaining, empathetic, engaging, and I use lots of prompting and cueing. I cajole my students by encouraging ownership. I say things like, “I don’t want to put words in your mouth.” Or, I ask, “Are you with me?” or “Should I run that past you again, no problem?” An effective mentor demonstrates a ton of positive energy and extraordinary amounts of patience. I endeavor to embody these attributes.




Q: How are you an especially effective academic mentor to people with learning differences?


Jared Kallen: Many students of all ages believe what they may have been told by teachers, peers, parents, or other significant influences. Prior to a diagnosis, many of these individuals may have felt justified in believing the young person was “stupid, lazy, incompetent, ungrateful, will never be a success, is doomed to a certain type of diminished life….” After a diagnosis, we must promptly eliminate this shaming and blaming so we can move the ball forward. I am particularly adept at letting students know, in no uncertain terms, that their “condition” is not their fault. Treating this challenge is similar to treating diabetes, which I have. We are responsible for doing so to the best of our abilities. Students often understand my diabetes metaphor and it draws us closer. After more than 25 years of serving as a mentor, I know all the ways that people with learning differences either waste their intelligence or abilities, or choose to prosper. I have developed an effective “toolkit” with strategies and techniques designed to halt unproductive behaviors and promote healthy ones.




Q: How are you an effective mentor to students who don’t have learning differences?


Jared Kallen: I apply the same energy, mastery of content, and motivational support to anyone who wants to improve their skills and performance. Students who are underperforming simply need to be equipped with a good model of what “better work” looks like and results usually follow in short order. It is typically a matter of precision coaching for content and disparate tasks and then, of course, closely monitoring client execution.




Q: How have you seen your students improve their habits, their approach to studies, and their understanding of life under your mentorship?


Jared Kallen: Students must own their past, present, and future. We only look to the past to gain clues as to what might work, and what might not. At first, it might be a guessing game, but the process coalesces swiftly. Many kids procrastinate, for example, and in so doing, ruin their chances of maximizing their potential. So, for procrastinators, we need to hold the line and produce the work: This always leads to better outcomes and grades. Under my tutelage, students swiftly learn to own their academic schedule, plan better, think more critically, and write more clearly. I accept nothing less. To give you one example, one client had not completed his undergraduate degree in four years. His mother called me with a simple and direct request: “Get him graduated!” This involved extensive questioning and developing a plan of action that had zero resemblance to the student’s past efforts (or lack thereof). I am proud to state that this student did graduate, and is now gainfully employed. He has a bright future!




Q: How do you identify and eliminate students’ unproductive life narratives?


Jared Kallen: I first do a great deal of research, gathering information and the “backdrop” from both parents and referring learning specialists and therapists. There really aren’t that wide a variety of narratives that young people produce, they are easy to identify and eliminate. When I first meet with the student, I share my own false narratives and how they handicapped me. I am a reformed perfectionist who earned straight A’s in high school. At one time, I was much less willing to take risks or extend myself because I was always too focused on achieving perfect grades. What does this do? It allows the student to understand that all of us have unhelpful narratives we need to reverse. At this point, a strong rapport has been established and the student feels comfortable delving into his or her false narrative. Every student has a story. If they do not want to delve into it, I gently remind the student that, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”




Q: How do you reframe your students’ perspective?


Jared Kallen: What’s happening in their minds is not their fault, often it’s biological. However, how they respond to what their minds are telling them is their responsibility. I coach them to ask themselves, “Is this true? Or, is it made up?” Once we separate fact from fiction, then the student feels a sense of relief and can more readily focus on the task at hand.





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WHAT PEOPLE SAY

I am quite familiar with Jared’s work and follow-through—his never-say-die attitude and approach, his creativity—and it is impressive, notable, and refreshing. Importantly, he does not shrink from challenges; rather, he embraces them! For over 30 years now, Jared has been studying human behavior—what makes people really tick—and he has armed himself with techniques and tools to “reach” just about anyone. He is unafraid to share his experiences and challenges with his clients, which makes them want it more. It could be a 25-year-old young man who cannot seem to graduate from college. It could be a 23-year-old woman who cannot seem to keep a job. It could be an 11th grader who has no confidence in her writing ability and sees no future for herself. It could be a 17-year-old young man who is suffering from untreated addiction AND who was just diagnosed with ADHD. It could be an 8th grader who does not know how to read critically or has no understanding of proper grammar—and who refuses to brush his teeth. The point is: it really does not matter. He provides massive support and precise academic coaching—and organization techniques—but with a very rare and intuitive energy. Rapport is King. I therefore offer my highest recommendation for all of Jared’s services and, in my extensive experience in this same field, have not encountered ANYONE like Jared.

-Stephanie Knapp, CP
Owner and Principal Advocate, Advocates In Education, LLC