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3 Things That Goodfellas Can Teach You About Classroom Management

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Welcome to the 2 part blog series called 'Gathering Your Behaviour Management Team.' In the first part, we looked at the MCU's Nick Fury & how he gathered the greatest heroes together to fight for the common good. Now, we need to look at some villains...

In this second part, I take inspiration from one of the most unlikely sources: the Mob enforcers in Martin Scorcese's 'Goodfellas.'

Although they were deeply amoral criminals, there are still lessons to be learnt on how to deal with conflict, organise your team & make friends in all the right places. Kapish? Let's get cracking!

C'mon. You know this film.

Goodfellas is probably the greatest gangster film ever made, with only The Godfather able to even step in the ring. Goodfellas is a sweeping tale of corruption, betrayal and the gritty realities of being an enforcer in the New York Mafia.

Don't panic.

I can imagine some of you spitting out your tea & thinking that I've lost my marbles! Please do not get teacher ID badges in a twist! I'm not going to tell you to 'whack' any of your kids...

While I utterly condemn all the criminal activities in this film, there are some key lessons that we can learn from those New York wiseguys about how to run an organisation efficiently & work as a Behaviour Management team.

Last week, you learnt why and who to assemble as part of your Behaviour Management taskforce. This week, with my tongue placed firmly in my cheek, you are going to learn how to work with them using the Goodfellas as your guides.

In the concluding part of this series, you will learn:

1) Why it's important to make 'friends' in as many places as possible to avoid any classroom issues.

2) The effective method that the Mafia settled disputes in a non-violent way that can be an asset to your classroom.

3) How to deal with difficult behaviour not as an individual but as a 'mob' of educators & how to use your network to help you deal with even the most disruptive students.

1) Network, Network, Network

In the Goodfellas film, the Mafia's business interests were in everything from dry cleaning to Politics. If they ever had a problem, Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) & his crew always knew the right person to call that would get the job done.

I once heard a wise man say that “you should make friends before you need them.”You are educators have to set up your own 'black book.' This is especially important if you are new to the school.

Don't be the teacher that only talks to people within their own department. if your department doesn't have answers then you are stumped.

Learn the lay of the land in your school or college. Find out who is in charge of behaviour, who are the Head of Years, who is the SENCO and who are members of Learning Support.

Even if you are an introvert, find a way to make as many connections as possible. This is an investment that will pay dividends in the future. 90% of the time, if you have a severely disruptive student, someone in your school has a positive relationship with them. Hunt them down.

If you are pleasant & ask nicely, most teachers would be happy to give you some pointers about particular students.

If you haven’t done this already, if you have a regular TA or LSA that visits your class, befriend them, buy them a drink or take them on holiday — whatever you can do to build a relationship with them.

As a former TA myself, I can honestly say that most TAs go above and beyond the call of duty to help not only the students that they key-work but help make your classroom better.

Ask them for their advice and absorb all the wisdom that they can offer you. They are indispensable and treat them that way. These are the guys that are in the trenches with you every day and can probably your main team member.

Your network will be your extra eyes and ears and give you greater insights that can help you take that student-teacher relationship to the next level.

2) Have a ‘Sit-down’

In the old Mafia movies, if one someone in the Mafia had a problem with another person, they would do is have a ‘Sit-down.’

This is where representatives of the two individuals would argue their case in front of the Don - the 'CEO' of the Mafia and they would look at solutions to solving this problem effectively & with the minimum fuss.

This kept the 'law & order' in the underworld. No matter how deep the grudge, if the Commission (the Mafia Senior Leadership) made a rule, it had to enacted, otherwise there were severe consequences...

If you have a pupil who you are finding it had to deal with, and you have built up your team, then maybe you should have a ‘sit-down’ or your own.

Come together with some of the members of your team and look at ways that you can build your relationship with this challenging student and look at behaviour strategies that have worked.

I was once a long-term English Supply Teacher in a school and I once dealt with a Year 8 student (who I will call Stephen) who had severe emotional dysregulation problems and often had very dramatic outbursts in the classroom.

This was a school-wide problem and the young man felt that all the teachers were picking on him. The Head of Year 8 called all his main teachers to come to a meeting with him and his Mum after school so that Stephen could communicate his grievances and look at ways that we could adjust the lessons to help him stay engaged.

One after one each teacher, including myself, told Stephen that we were there to help him and not make his life miserable. We all talked for twenty-five minutes and came up with strategies to help him stay in the lesson.

Stephen’s relationships with all his teachers dramatically improved because we came together and sorted thrashed out our issues. We also learnt what other teachers were doing in their lessons and we adapted them across the board.

I realise that in your already busy day, you may not have thirty minutes a day to sit-down with other teachers to talk about your students.

But I am sure that you find ten minutes in your week to talk to people and build up your network. Go to break with different staff members and don’t be shy to ask for advice.

Make sure that when the time comes you do the same thing for them too. Besides making new friends will pay off when it comes to your birthday — think about that.

3) Teach As A Village

At the core of Goodfellas it's about family.

It's twisted & extremely dysfunctional family but it's about a group of individuals who through illegal means, try to live the American Dream. They form rituals, codes of conduct & ways of handling situations designed to keep everyone in line.

The Mafia's name was feared & respected & if you were a 'wiseguy' (a senior mafioso) you were virtually untouchable. The name carried weight.

Do you know companies pay celebrities like Ronaldo millions of pounds to advertise their goods? Because they know that there is power in association. If Drake says Coca-Cola is cool then you can be damn sure that millions of kids will run to the shops to get some!

You have to build your own 'Mob' connections or as I would say, you have to teach like you all belong to a small village.

Some disruptive kids misbehave in your class because they know that some teachers do not have the 'back-up' to take anything further. By building connections with other educators (especially one the kids like), show that you are worthy to be respected.

This is especially effective if you build a relationship with another teacher who the kids think is 'cool.' I have seen the most disruptive students melt when their favourite teacher came into the class. Try to get the co-sign.

You can also work out rewards, and if you have to, sanctions with the other teachers depending upon their behaviour. The key is showing the student that all the teachers are singing off the same hymn sheet and that the collective is aware of what they do.

This doesn't only have to be inside the school too. Where feasible, talk to family members, external agencies and mentoring organisations wherever possible.

If you do have regular communication with representatives of external agencies such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or Social Services, if they have any training days or workshops, I thoroughly encourage you to go.

These representatives are highly trained to deal with students who have SEN & SEMH & can give you an absolute treasure-trove of advice tips & resources that can help you with even the most challenging learners. Constantly expand your Personal Learning Network (PLN).

That's it! If you enjoyed this week's blogpost, why don't you sign up the AHT blog? It's quick, easy & you will get the latest blogs, newsletters & goodies straight into your inbox.

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