Associate Professor of Education at Pepperdine University
I am a professor of teacher education and a sometimes Harry Potter scholar. I am combining these two passions into this one blog: Harry Potter Goes to School. My plan for this blog is to study the entire Hogwarts saga, a chapter at a time, and make what connections I can between Harry’s experiences and the interests of teachers. There are 198 chapters plus an epilogue.
A year ago, I created a bulletin board in my classroom at Pepperdine University entitled “Hogwarts Master Teachers” with photos of Hogwarts teachers from the films combined with a quotation from each teacher and a quotation from the California Teaching Performance Expectations. I enjoyed making the bulletin board as it distracted me from some of the more tedious aspects of being a professor. My students loved the Hogwarts bulletin board much more than I had anticipated. Photos of it appeared on their Facebook pages. When another professor took it down to make room for his students to create a new bulletin board, students were distressed. I realized that their love of the bulletin board had little to do with my meager positioning and stapling expertise and much to do with their love of all things Harry Potter. These young twenty-somethings grew up during the Harry Potter mania of book releases, movie premieres, Harry Potter merchandise, cryptic quotations from JKR, interviews with actors, and for many—reading and multiple re-readings of the books. They are the Hogwarts Generation.
The narration of the series encourages young readers to identify with Harry as he grows up at Hogwarts. Readers see themselves in other young characters as well: Hermione, the enthusiastically over-achieving student; Luna, the odd girl who feels normal; Neville, the loser who wants to belong; Ron, the overlooked friend and younger brother. Now that my students are young adults preparing to become teachers, a new imaginative world is opening to them as they consider the Hogwarts teachers not from a student’s perspective but from a teacher’s perspective. As they used to imaginatively experience being a Hogwarts student, they begin now to imaginatively experience being a Hogwarts teacher. McGonagall’s sternness, Lupin’s kindness, Hagrid’s ineptitude, and Snape’s bitterness take on new significance as students experience the challenges of learning to teach.
The Harry Potter series is not primarily about teaching, and I do not intend to make it out as such. But Hogwarts, the people who work there, and the people who go to school there tell a lot of truth about teaching and learning and provide plenty of springboards for speculation about the conditions of schooling. This blog is dedicated to and written primarily for my own students and their colleagues around the world who grew up as Harry’s friend and are now becoming Harry’s teacher.