There is something to be said for experiencing the Harry Potter series for the first time as an adult. Yes, you read that right. I grew up during Harry Potter’s prime, and yet I couldn’t get into the books as a kid. I was an avid reader, mind you, but I was more interested in vampires and other dark creatures. And yes, that does mean I was part of that Twilight crowd. I even watched the Harry Potter movies as they came out, but I still did not appreciate the series as much as I do now. This is in small part due to my closest friends being utterly disgusted with me during grad school. But a big reason for my delayed enjoyment is because I see myself as the teachers of Hogwarts rather than the students.
To be transported into a story, readers need an entry point. Typically, this is a character they relate to and see a bit of themselves in. As a child, I did not relate to Harry Potter or Ron Weasley. Sure, I was definitely a Hermione, but I could not get past the first several chapters of the book to get to her introduction. As a child, I wanted the instant gratification of a character I immediately connected with. No matter how many times I attempted to read the book after being hounded by various friends to “just get through it,” I couldn’t hack it. The first time I finally finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was in my undergrad Children’s Lit course. I enjoyed it, but I still wasn’t completely pulled into its fandom.
Then I became a teacher. I had graduated with my master’s and finally had time to read for enjoyment again. Or so I thought. Being an adjunct requires quite a bit of time spent on the freeway, thus the loving term “freeway fliers,” and any time not on the road is spent in the classroom or at home lesson planning and grading.
To tap into this time spent in my car, I downloaded the Audible app. The first book I listened to was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets narrated by Jim Dale. And while the main trio was more endearing to me during this read through, the person I immediately connected with was Minerva McGonagall. I even loved to hate Gilderoy Lockhart and his frequent teaching fumbles. I immediately read the third book and was drawn further into the world of Harry Potter through Remus Lupin. I appreciated the subtle moral lessons Albus Dumbledore shared with Harry and grew to despise Severus Snape.
The teachers of Hogwarts reminded me of some of the faculty I work with on a regular basis. Their teaching styles and how effective they are in the classroom impact Harry on his journey.
Fresh Blood: Rubeus Hagrid
I have been teaching three years now, and while I would love to say I have found my groove, I still feel like a newborn doe struggling to find my feet. Hagrid is promoted from groundskeeper of Hogwarts to professor of the Care of Magical Creatures and is incredibly anxious for his first class. He constantly checks with Harry to make sure he is doing a good job and second-guesses his lesson plans. Draco nearly ruins his career and amplifies Hagrid’s anxiety in the process. Hagrid, much like many new teachers, is hyper-aware of his failures and has a hard time bouncing back. Eventually, he finds his footing, but his uncertainty is always present in one form or another.
I sympathize with Hagrid on an obvious level and can say that I am more often like Hagrid than the other Hogwarts professors. However, there is something wonderful about Hagrid as well: he is completely himself in the classroom. He shares his interests for unusual creatures with his students, and while not all of them share his passion for the unusual, many appreciate the passion he shares with them. He is unconventional, which is something I strive for as a teacher myself.
The Fed-Up Tenured Teacher: Severus Snape
Tenure is a surprisingly controversial topic among the teaching community. Most adjunct faculty, if not all, strive to attain this coveted tenure-track position. Many teachers simply, and admirably, want this position not only for job security but for the promise that they can focus all their energy on the classroom rather than splitting it between the class and CV building activities. However, it is hard for us to deny there are those who want it only for job security, so they can take advantage of that certainty. I say this because, as a student, I have seen professors who have been teaching for so long without finding a way to reinvent the lessons or subject they teach that they simply coast through. Some have even become somewhat bitter, as Snape has with constantly being given Potions instead of Defense Against the Dark Arts as a teaching subject. Snape lashes out against students, even verbally abusing them, and selects favorites in his course based on his Slytherin bias.
I have, unfortunately, worked with some fairly bitter faculty members who tend to pick favorites in their classrooms and, at times, undercut their students’ ambition. A great deal of this may be due to a personal frustration in their own lives or with the material they are required to teach, which is evident in Snape’s behavior, but ultimately it’s the students who suffer the consequences, which can be lasting!
Can you name a teacher or professor who destroyed, or nearly destroyed, a dream you once had? I know I can. Snape was written as a redeemable character, yet as a teacher, I find his behavior abhorrent and unforgivable, no matter the help he provided in the last novel.
The Challenging Teacher: Minerva McGonagall
The teacher I strive to be. McGonagall is that no-nonsense professor you had for a class you were struggling in and hated in the beginning but grew to greatly admire when you saw how much you progressed in her course. Viewing her from a teacher’s perspective, she is self-assured and exudes confidence. While McGonagall is somewhat intimidating, she is accessible to her students and works with them to tackle whatever they are struggling with. Harry often comes to her for advice, be it related to school or not. She expects the best from her students.
I find as a newer and younger teacher I am only a shadow of McGonagall. Sure, I am approachable and create a classroom community akin to McGonagall’s Gryffindor House, but I tend to bend to students’ pleas for extensions, late submissions, and prolonged absences. McGonagall balances her compassion with her expectations and is “fair, but firm.” McGonagall also has a way of presenting her class with challenges but builds their confidence and skills so they know they can overcome them. While McGonagall is not a perfect professor, she does seem to be the most successful in aiding her students towards greatness. She is who I am to be.
I could easily go on with the rest of the professors from Hogwarts, and perhaps I will if there is enough interest in this post, but for now I will stop here. Which teachers would you like to read about next?