Two-By-Ten Strategy Part 1

Recently at my school, we have begun to look at those strained relationships with scholars as opportunities. You know the ones. The scholars that push us to our limits and challenge our patience. The scholars who test our good last nerve, the scholars we learn the most about ourselves from. The scholars who push us to grow in ways we hadn’t thought about, nor knew we could.

Sarah McKibben shared the two-by-ten strategy in an article published several years ago. The premise is simple – spend two minutes a day for 10 days having a personal conversation with a scholar. As you build a relationship with the scholar, you better understand who they are, their hopes, dreams, fears.

True learning and academic progress will not take place until a trusting relationship exists. authors of Building Equity: Policies and Practices to Empower All Learners share, “It is essential for schools to intentionally create systems that support the social-emotional engagement of its members and help them feel valued and understood.”

Maybe you’re skeptical or wondering, “Really two minutes. It can’t be that simple.” After implementing the two-by-ten strategy for a few months, teachers were asked, “How did the two-by-ten strategy impact your relationship with your opportunity scholar?”

“It impacted my scholar in a positive way. They felt more comfortable and open.”

“We became closer, and this scholar shares personal stories as well as asks to help me out.”

“It strengthened the relationship until the student transferred to another school.”

“It made him much more willing to open up with me.”

“The strategy helped the scholar to realize that I cared about him. Spending a few extra minutes talking with him made him feel special and he realized that I liked him. Before the strategy he would say things like “you don’t like me” when I asked him to turn his card or take a time out. After the strategy, he didn’t say it very often.”

“It gave me extra time to explore her other interests beyond the regular academic goals I usually focus on.”

“I got to know my scholar not just as a scholar but as an everyday child. I got to know and understand who they are. What they like/dislike. What struggles they may have. How I can help them during the school day?”

“The 2 x 10 strategy completely changed the way I was dealing with the relationship between myself and my “opportunity” scholar. I chose a scholar who tends to be in trouble a lot, has a hard time taking responsibility for his choices and does not always strive to do his very best. This scholar and I had been struggling to find an effective method of communicating, which was getting us nowhere fast. I needed to change the way I was handling myself and the 2 x 10 challenge came just at the right time.”

“Before I started the challenge, my only interactions with the scholar seemed to be when I was attempting to redirect a behavior or dole out a consequence, and he was pushing back hard. I began to initiate conversations that reached beyond the rut we had fallen into. I asked questions about his life and showed a genuine interest. He began opening up and there was a visible softening in his facial expressions and demeanor. I learned quickly that there was a lot more to this scholar than his tendency to act before thinking. He has a great sense of humor, an active imagination, a love for his family and a strong desire for acceptance. He has not lived an easy life and learning about some of his experiences gave me a better understanding of who he is and why.”

“The 2 x 10 challenge with my scholar has been a complete paradigm shift. He still has challenging days and pushes boundaries. So, do I, if I am being honest! But, we have learned how to effectively communicate with each other in a way that allows us to stop, listen and understand. Our relationship has far surpassed what it once was. I have grown to look forward to our daily conversations and know I will continue to see growth from my scholar.”

“The scholar I chose went from saying very disrespectful things to me to saying, hi and asking positive questions in class.”

“I was never able to make the 10 days in a row. I was able to make something better than 10 days and that was – I made a friend. My opportunity turned into a very cool relationship with a scholar that helped me to know that he likes eggs and toast in the morning, hamburgers and playing video games with fast cars in them. The best part of the entire experience is that he knows he can trust me and we talk to each other nearly every day.”

“I feel that it had a positive impact. It allowed me time to get a better understanding of why this scholar had certain behaviors, and more about his home life. I also think that it helped me build a healthy and positive relationship with him.”

“This was a great way to get to know our kiddos that we may not get the chance to connect with regularly.”

“The scholar says hi to me and asks question in a positive manner in class rather than saying mean things or disrupting the class.”

“The 2 x 10 strategy impacted my relationship with my ‘opportunity scholar’ by providing me with more information regarding the scholar’s home life and interests.”

“I have been working with my 2 X 10 scholar and he has shown much improvement in his behaviors. I have planned, with another teacher, to help him become more aware of his actions. I am using an award system, if he completes his tasks in class he gets to work with his Reading Buddy scholar in her room.”

“I picked a particular scholar that was very hard to understand. He has a very hard home life which makes it very hard for him to be consistent with his studies. He naturally demanded a lot of attention so I feel like I’m always meeting/talking to him at random times. I think our trust has gotten stronger but his academics still suffer.”

“This strategy helped me see my scholar in a bigger context. I learned about family life, what he does at home and things that he enjoys. I learned about what he wants to be when he grows up.”

I challenge you to try the two-by-ten strategy with an “opportunity” scholar for the next several weeks and share your experience.


Jen Robinson

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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