2 Minutes to Better Relationships with Your Most At-Risk Students

There is much pride in the role of being an elementary school principal. There are many different hats to wear throughout the day and many different kinds of people to work with. One of my favorite aspects of the job is getting to build relationships with students at my school. Granted the job is also very challenging and I am looking for any efficiencies to carry out my work. Building relationships is not an area where shortcuts can be taken but I found an easy way for me to focus my energy and attention in a systematic way that creates more time for me to do my work elsewhere: The 2×10 Strategy!The premise of this strategy is very simple: spend two minutes per day for ten days in a row with an at-risk student talking about anything that he or she wishes to share. There is power in this strategy and it only takes two minutes of my time every day! In just two minutes, I am demonstrating to a student that I really do care about them. I am building trust and depositing “credit” for when the difficult conversations need to occur. If I continue to show my interest for the ten days in a row, my investment pays back in dividends. By developing a strong personal interest in that child’s life, they know that I am their ally. Challenging behavior is no longer a conversation about “punishment” but is an opportunity for us to discuss choices, consequences, and strategies for improvement.

I first learned about this strategy from an ASCD article that highlighted the work of Raymond Wlodkowski. In his research, he reported that there was an 85 percent improvement in that one student’s behavior when this strategy was applied to the most difficult student in the class, and there was an overall improvement in behavior of the rest of the class. As a classroom teacher, I knew the importance of building relationships with students but now had a strategy for working with my challenging student. Did it fix his behaviors? No, but it gave me some “cred” and I was able to work differently with this student in my classroom.

Later, I revisited the idea of using the strategy with students as a new principal after I read another ASCD article about building relationships in two-minutes. It got me thinking about the work of the principal and how challenging it is to build meaningful relationships with the students in my school. I decided to apply the 2 x 10 strategy to a couple of my most challenging students. I noticed immediately that the targeted students felt more comfortable coming to me when they needed help. It also helped me draw upon their interests and dreams for the future when I needed to take corrective action. Did it solve all my behavior problems? Of course not. But in just two minutes, I feel more connected and vested in my students.

Article by:
Jennifer Larva, Principal
Lowell Elementary School
Duluth, MN

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