Harry Potter Guide to Teacher Personalities

The elements of a great class are not born on magical principles. In fact, it usually takes only one lesson combining fun, intrigue and organization, as well as a fair and encouraging teacher, for a class to become a student’s favorite. Students also look for qualities such as

  • following through with word and actions,
  • admitting to mistakes,
  • taking a common sense approach to grading and assigning homework.

This month, the Harry Potter Guide will help students understand why some teachers are particular favorites, and others impart valuable life lessons.

“Unfogging the Future”

It’s Thursday; so, climb out of your four-poster bed, say good morning to your bunk mates, and head down to breakfast. Now that it is November, transitioning from class to class is barely even a chore.  Oh, you are right. It would be hard to forget about the ten-minute walk up seven staircases to the North Tower.  This morning, don’t worry about Sir Cadogan’s loud, taunting comments; instead, focus on arriving to class early. Open the trap door and climb up. First period with Professor Trelawney is about to begin!

There are some subjects, like divination, that do not require study, only a natural ability. While Professor Trelawney excites her students through a craft of making somewhat believable predictions, it is understandable why Harry “dreaded the hours he spent in her stifling tower room.” While most students don’t concern themselves with death omens, Harry needed a teacher who provided a sense of belonging for every student. Through her support, Ron and Harry may have taken the class seriously, and even explored other fields of study with an open mind.

A True Identity Revealed

“The door swung open at once. She had a very stern face, and Harry’s first thought was that she was not someone to cross.” After three years, Harry and his classmates had time to value Professor McGonagall’s no-nonsense, but fair, approach toward student bravery and acts of stupidity. Yes, she would dock her own house 50 points to teach a valuable lesson (or award points “for sheer dumb luck”). She also had a keen interest in supporting a student’s educational goals (from giving Hermione a time-turner to helping Harry become an Auror with the Ministry of Magic). Too easily, a student can misjudge a teacher’s character without looking beyond the surface. If you are very lucky, a teacher may be acting in character, and the real identify may be revealed in time; so, pay attention now, or you will miss not just great lessons, but a wonderful teacher.

There’s Trouble in the Dungeon

While double the fun is a great expression, double-potions class for Gryffindor students has a different connotation.   “A few cauldrons away, Neville was in trouble. Neville regularly went to pieces in Potions lessons; it was his worst subject, and his great fear of Professor Snape made things ten times worse.” Yes, it happens. Students meet teachers who do not offer second chances, grade with high expectations, use sarcasm, and show favoritism and fairness to other students. Sometimes, the most challenging individuals teach attributes that are not found in a textbook, such as perseverance, lessons learned, and exceeding his or her expectations. By the seventh year, Neville begins to take pride in his abilities, make wiser decisions, and lead.

Recognizing the Good of Heart

Great curiosity and excitement always surround a new teacher. No surprise, when one teacher replaces another, the class will congregate out in the hallway to make comparisons in style, presentation and pace. Fortunately for third-year students taking Defense Against the Dark Arts, the class “had become most people’s favorite.” Who wouldn’t like the teacher whose “next few lessons were just as interesting as the first,” provided hands-on practical instruction, encouraged every student though praise, and even awarded house points for effort. “Excellent, Neville. Well done, everyone. Let me see… five points to Gryffindor for every person to tackle the Boggart—ten for Neville because he did it twice—and five each to Hermione and Harry” for answering questions.

A Practical Lesson Outdoors

Classes in the great outdoors have the ability to offer a practical, “worldly” lesson. If you open your eyes, many unexpected and magical experiences await you, such as witnessing a real unicorn, or flying on the back of a Hippogriff. Hagrid taught that you don’t have to see to believe, and to understand that everyone’s comfort comes in all sizes and fears. Sometimes, the best lessons are found walking in the Forbidden Forest without a textbook, notebook, or pencil.  

Next month the Harry Potter Guide will focus on the themes of disagreements and apologies.

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