‘The Invisible Contract’ between educators and students


To coincide with the launch of our new behaviour audit tool and support programme, Jackie Rose, Senior Education Lead, describes two ‘reminders’ about behaviour practice that educators should know and utilise in current practice.

In a blog entitled ‘The 2×10 strategy: a miraculous solution for behaviour issues?’ written by Angela Watson, founder and writer of ‘Truth for Teachers,’ she describes a behaviour strategy that works for children that do not seem to respond to other behaviour strategies in school. It is based on forming a trusting relationship with this child and so may not seem like anything new. However, schools across the USA and those in Britain who have adopted it as part of their behaviour policy report great results.

What is 2×10 and where did it originate

The 2×10 (or Two-by-Ten) strategy is simple: spend two minutes (as a minimum) per day for 10 days in a row talking with an at-risk student about anything they want to talk about. Watson suggests she found an article from ASCD, based on research from Raymond Wlodkowski, which details this.

Watson writes that she heard about 2×10 through a teacher in a Facebook group and shares this story from that teacher anonymously:

“One of my kindergarten girls has been pretty disruptive. During rest time today, I called her over to just talk and we spent more than the two minutes. I learned that her dad has been in jail lately. I learned she loves tarantulas and spiders. I learned she likes it when her mom lets her practice writing her name. Of course, then I let her write her name using sticky notes and highlighters and she positively loved it. I learned she thinks her handwriting looks bad so I encouraged her that she will get better with practice. She wanted to know how to spell my name then said, “How do you spell ‘you are beautiful’?” I let her take the sticky notes with her name and put them in her backpack. She danced to her backpack and wanted to keep one of the notes stuck on her shirt. She came back over and said she wanted to stay and learn more. Silly girl, I am the one who was learning!

“This experience touched my heart today. I am confident that this small investment of time and others in the future will yield major changes in this little girl’s classroom behaviour. It is not easy to find the time. I had high priority things I could/should have been working on but I wouldn’t trade today’s experience for anything.” (Classroom teacher, USA)

Everyone knows how busy teachers are and how many other priorities pull at your conscience, but if we think about 2×10 and really apply this strategy, it makes total sense.

Read Angela Watson’s blog in full here.

The 2×10 strategy is not new. All educators know that those staff who form great relationships with children yield better results with them; but sometimes we just need a reminder. This policy can work well if it is adhered to, with clearly identified children linked with allocated members of staff; and if it is overseen, organised and tracked. But if you want it to work in your classroom, then perhaps it needs to evolve more organically with those children who cause you the most problems.

Insight from the ASCD

Discover – Behaviour support

I am reminded of a further piece on the American ASCD website which describes the work of Paul Kilkenny, a mentor teacher in East San Jose, California.

The piece describes how Kilkenny works with teachers, who in turn work with kids ‘often in tough situations.’ He says he constantly has to remind teachers to stop focusing on the behaviour of their students, but rather ‘to continually assume the best about their students.’

The following extract entitled ‘the Invisible Contract’ from this same piece, describes another reminder that we should also pay attention to.

“Whenever students walk into the classroom, assume they hold an invisible contract in their hands, which states, ‘Please teach me appropriate behaviour in a safe and structured environment.’ The teacher also has a contract, which states, ‘I will do my best to teach you appropriate behaviour in a safe and structured environment.’

This approach can radically change our perspective on student misbehaviour. To illustrate, in the beginning of the school year, Mark decides to test his teacher, whom we will call Mrs. Allgood. Mark looks at his invisible contract and thinks, ‘This contract is important. Let’s see whether Mrs. Allgood is going to uphold her end of it.’ So Mark breaks a small rule to see what will happen. If Mrs. Allgood is harsh or punitive to Mark for breaking the rule, he says to himself, ‘This class isn’t safe; she isn’t honouring the contract.’ However, if Mrs. Allgood ignores Mark and he gets away with breaking the rule or if she enforces it inconsistently, Mark says to himself, ‘This class isn’t structured; she isn’t honouring the contract.’

Either way, Mark is not satisfied. So he thinks to himself, ‘To communicate the importance of this contract and give the teacher another chance, I’ll break a slightly larger rule.’ He will continue to break larger and larger rules until Mrs. Allgood comes through consistently with both safety and structure. When she’s consistent over time, Mark says to himself, ‘Oh good, she’s honouring the contract. Now I can relax and focus on learning.’

The bottom line is that when students test us, they want us to pass the test. They are on our side rooting for us to come through with safety and structure. When students act out, they are really saying, ‘We don’t have the impulse control that you have. We are acting out so that you will provide us with safety and structure—be soft yet firm—so that we can learn the behaviour we need to learn to be happy and successful.’”

Read the ASCD article in full here.

Being clear about teaching learning behaviours in our everyday classroom practice and making this an important part of each lesson until it is engrained, is a valuable reminder in our quest to be better teachers.

Teaching learning behaviours forms is integral to our new behaviour support programme. I hope you find it useful.

SSAT Behaviour Audit Tool and support programme

The SSAT Behaviour Audit tool provides a list of core statements in six areas of behaviour practice. These are designed to prompt thinking, to help leaders not only decide if systems and structures are fit for purpose, but more importantly how the child fits front and centre into any policy around behaviour. Once the audit is completed, a member of the SSAT education team will visit the school to discuss the review and provide practical suggestions to improve behaviour in your school.

Find out more

Jackie Rose, Senior Education Lead, SSAT

Jackie Rose, Senior Education Lead, SSAT

After studying a B.Ed Hons degree in Primary Education, Jackie worked as a professional contemporary dancer in England and Europe. She taught dance in secondary schools in London and Leeds, then as Head of Performing Arts. Jackie has since had a long career at senior leadership leading teaching and learning, and as a headteacher of two schools in low socio-economic areas. She also has an MBA in Educational Leadership.


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