Just a fair warning, if you are not a Harry Potter fan, you prolly will not enjoy the following post. If you are a hardcore HP fan like me, I hope my rant about professors and Hogwarts is just as fun to read as it was to write 🙂
So, I’m listening to the HP Order of the Phoenix soundtrack and it got me thinking about Harry Potter (go figure) and the world of Hogwarts. In Harry’s world, there were teachers and professors that connected with him, while with others he made enemies. Professor Snape is a famous character for being Harry’s teacher-nemesis, and even though we tend to take Harry’s side and Snape turned out to be good in the end, let’s look back at this Snape character and how he interacted with Harry, and how we, as future educators, can learn from Snape and Harry.
Off the bat, the grumpy potions master took an ill liking towards Harry. Was it because he was famous, or because he looked like his father, or because he stopped the Dark Lord? Or maybe it was a combination of all three. It’s unlikely, but you might have a student in your classroom who’s famous, or has famous parents, or has some influence on the community or the nation. It’s important, as teachers, that we don’t act like Snape and judge that student based on what we know about them outside of the classroom. They might not even be a “famous” student where this judgment happens–perhaps he/she had an older sibling in your class, who was always disruptive and got into trouble and who you HATED. Isn’t it important, even if it’s hard, that we don’t judge this new student because of that? This seems simple enough in writing, but this notion is much easier said than done. As people, we are naturally judging in order to gauge our environment, and we will form opinions about students even before we know them. We can’t stop this. We CAN, however, control how we act and what we say. The students will be your friends, so long as you are friends to them. Snape failed to be Harry’s friend and successful teacher the moment he turned his abnormally big nose up at the 11-year-old kid, stating “fame isn’t everything, is it Mr. Potter?” Now, yes Snape is an overexaggeration of a mean teacher, but I personally have had scary teachers like Professor Snape. And I will tell you now, I didn’t learn much from their classes because I was simply terrified and secretly hated that teacher. So I’m determined to not be like Professor Snape.
Good qualities about Professor Snape? He did not PITY Harry. He did not feel sorry for him and gave him good grades just because he was struggling. We might end up in a similar situation where we’ve watched a student struggle at home, or with a language barrier, or had no food to eat. These obstacles in a students’ life should not summon pity from us as teachers, as much as we want to. We can’t give them an A just to cheer them up–that’s not fair. We can help them overcome their language barrier, or give them a granola bar, or give them emotional support, but we can’t give out good grades when they didn’t earn them. This sounds simple and harsh and blunt writing it out, but it’s true. We have to be a little like Snape and give out fair grades based on the quality of the work turned in and the correctness of their answers. And, let’s face it, Harry didn’t exactly turn in the most quality work to Snape’s class most of the time. As much as we cheer for our “Chosen One” hero, Harry was human and a student, and like all students he procrastinated, didn’t study, and put forth more effort to classes he liked instead of potions. Did that have a lot to do with Professor Snape? Yes it did. So this proves how much teachers have influence on how much the students like the subjects being taught.
Meanwhile, Professor McGonagall turned out to be a very effective teacher–though she obviously favored Harry, she was still a tough teacher. Harry learned a lot from her classes, and she by no means went easy on him. There’s a fine line between favoring too much or too little, and I think McGonagal walks that line effectively. She wants what’s best for him, and supports him, but she knows giving him good grades and making it easier on him will not help. As teachers, that’s our role.
Along this rant, there were two specific teachers I HATED: Professor Umbridge (for obvious reasons), and Professor Slughorn.
Professor Umbridge was the epitome of hating students solely on what they believed. Poisonous and prejudiced, Umbridge gave Harry detention (cruel and unusual torture, in otherwords), simply that he believed something different than her. Surely we won’t get into arguments with our students on whether Lord Voldemort had returned or not, but we will run across very opinionated students, parents, or fellow staff members who we will not agree with. It’s crucial we don’t act like this delusional woman and base grades, or person, solely on what they believe.
Slughorn, on the other hand, was the opposite. He played obscene favoritism towards his students and treated certain students like trophies. His shrine dedicated to the “important” students from Hogwarts is demeaning and unfair, and I really felt for Ron who didn’t make it into the “slug club.” Having this sort of judgment separates “smart” students from “dull” students, and places unfair disadvantages to the group of “dull” students, and vise-versa for those who were “smart.” Harry made it into Slughorn’s admiring eyes because he was famous and he cheated–how is that fair for anyone else who tries just as hard, if not harder, in Slughorn’s classroom? Having such prejudiced views just really pissed me off, and it infuriated me that Slughorn was never berated for having such a system of unfair judgment. That is not good teaching, if you ask me.
Anyway, enough about Harry Potter. See you all tomorrow!
When you see it…it’s awesome!