Harry Potter and the World of Good Professors

Hello CO301D,

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 ūüôā

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!

-Natalie

Just Some Kids Hanging Out, Right?¬† When you see it…it’s awesome!

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6 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the World of Good Professors

  1. First off, can I say how excited I got when I saw Harry Potter in the title? So needless to say I just had to comment. I like your connection between the teachers in the HP series and teaching situations in real life. Although we will probably never find ourselves with a magical orphan in our class, these teachers still set good/bad examples of different teaching methods.

    So since it would be pointless for me to just agree with everything you said (I totally do) I would instead like to pose a question. What do you think of the house points system in Hogwarts? Do you think that it is a good motivator/punishment for students or not? I’m not going to lie, being an insane HP nerd I’ve considered implementing a similar system in my classroom (still working out the specifics) and so I’m curious on your opinion. See you tomorrow!

    Anna

    • kreidern says:

      Hey Anna–your idea about houses is a good one. I think it would be an awesome tool to use in the classroom. Although Hogwarts is severely divided between the four houses, high school functions in much of the same way between freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The nice thing about the house system is that it brings together students from all ages. There’s less emphasis on fourth year vs. second year and instead Slytherin vs. Gryffindor. There are pros and cons to each system

  2. If we have any other Potter fans, it might be fun to talk about the Umbridge era and Rowling’s viewpoint on standardized testing/NCLB…

  3. alasamy says:

    I couldn’t help but think about the legilimency lessons that Snape was supposed to give Harry to keep Voldemort from infiltrating his thoughts while I read your analysis of Snape as a teacher. Professor Snape was unable to keep his personal opinions about Harry and his father out of the lesson and it ended up blowing up in his face when Harry was able to enter his mind and see an embarrassing memory of James bullying Severus. Not that students get that kind of a chance to see the skeletons in their teachers’ closets like that, but I think that is a valid lesson in keeping personal opinions of students out of the classroom. It does damage to everyone involved when the teacher is acting out of spite towards a student. The student misses out on really valuable lessons and the teacher does not get resolution for whatever he or she feels merits the way that they are treating that student any way.

    It feels kind of ridiculous to think about characters from Hogwarts like this, but I think you’re correct in seeing the applicable lessons that are found in the Harry Potter series!

    -Amy

  4. tseyffert says:

    Love this connection! We don’t even realize our attitudes towards teachers until we step back. A teacher really can effect you interest in a subject and how much effort a student puts into school…. but this isn’t to say teachers control it ALL. Students also have other variables that effect their schoolwork.

  5. mattcleland says:

    This is some awesomesauce.

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