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Harry Potter Special: Evaluating Hogwarts Teachers

Annie Condron


Approaching the summer blockbuster season without a new Harry Potter movie to look forward to makes me sad. Here's an HP-fix for Potterheads with an education twist.


One thing that is rarely noticed about the Harry Potter series is how revealing Rowlings’ work is to the teaching profession. She follows her characters through their school years and shows the readers what does and does NOT make for great teachers.


As a tribute to memory of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, here are 10 teacher evaluations for our favorite magical faculty (in no particular order).

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Minerva McGonagall

Harry Potter Special: Evaluating Hogwarts TeachersSubject: Transfiguration


Prof. McGonagall is known for her strict, no-nonsense classroom demeanor. Despite her mastery of classroom management, she engenders the deepest respect from her students. Her high expectations and project-based instructional approach allow students to try and make mistakes in their learning.


Prof. McGonagall’s only weakness is her avid love of Quidditch. She recruited Harry as Seeker in his first year instead of punishing him for an unsupervised broom flight.


Teaching Philosophy:  "Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts. Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned."


Sample Lesson:

Students are tasked with turning a mouse into a snuffbox for their end of term Transfiguration practical - extra points for how pretty the snuffbox was, points off if it still has whiskers.   Ron’s still had a tail.


Pomona Sprout


Subject: Herbology


Prof. Sprout isn’t afraid to let her students get their hands dirty.  She is known for her hands-on approach to instruction in the green house and for putting students at ease while challenging them to be their best. The encouraging environment helped shy, nervous Neville shine in his favorite subject.


Teaching Philosophy:  "I feel that if a single pupil wants to come, then the school ought to remain open for that pupil."


Sample Lesson:

After receiving step-by-step instructions and applying protective gear, students will repot mandrakes (plants that look like crying babies, but whose roots have curative properties). To confer the importance of the lesson, the instructor will also question students about the possible uses for mandrake roots and the dangers in improperly handling them.


Rubeus Hagrid


Harry Potter Special: Evaluating Hogwarts TeachersSubject: Care of Magical Creatures


Hagrid is a typical novice teacher:  ambitious, caring and lacking confidence. His blind spot for dangerous creatures adds adventure and a plenty of apprehension to his lesson. His classroom management took a hit with a few failed lessons (blast-ended skrewt, anyone?), but he demonstrates a mastery in his subject matter and has tremendous potential.


Teaching Philosophy:  “Vastly misunderstood beasts, Harry. Vastly misunderstood.”


Sample Lesson:

After initial instruction, students are tasked with approaching a hippogriff. These half-horse, half-eagle animals are very polite and require that people bow, show respect to the animal and let the hippogriff make the first move. Harry was a natural with Buckbeak, but Malfoy blatantly ignored Hagrid’s instructions, insulted his hippogriff and got hurt.  This set off week-after-week of boring lessons with harmless flobberworms.


Cuthbert Binns


Subject: The History of Magic


As the only ghost teaching at Hogwarts, Prof. BInns’ class is as old-fashioned and lifeless as he is. His lectures are monotonous, managing to turn the details of bitter goblin uprisings into a snooze-fest.  


As the story goes, Prof. Binns died in his sleep an old man, but stuck to his usual routine and class schedule as a ghost. There’s a teacher who should consider differentiating his instruction.


Teaching Philosophy: "My subject is History of Magic. I deal with facts, not myths and legends."


Sample Lesson:

Students will try to stay awake as the instructor lectures on the importance of some bit of historical information. Lecture, rinse, repeat for eternity.


Dolores Umbridge


Harry Potter Special: Evaluating Hogwarts TeachersSubject: Defense Against the Dark Arts


Dolores Umbridge is the ultimate example of what happens when politicians dictate school policies and practices. As the mouthpiece for the Ministry of Magic, she rules her classroom and the school with an iron fist and no regard for learning. Her classroom is purely reading and rote instruction with no practical application. That’s why Harry had to take over as the real DADA teacher with Dumbledore’s Army. Unlike Umbridge, Harry was a natural.


Her disciplinary tactics were also positively “medieval.” She is inflexible and demeans co-workers, leading her toxic teaching to infect the entire school, not just her classroom.


Teaching philosophy: “Wands away.”


“It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.”


Sample Lesson:

Students are tasked with reading a chapter from their text books and encouraged not to question orders or decrees from the Ministry of Magic.


Remus Lupin


Subject: Defense Against the Dark Arts


While Umbridge exemplifies how NOT to teach, Prof. Lupin epitomizes the ideal, caring teacher.


He is known for putting his students’ at ease and giving them the confidence to take on challenging  assignments. He plays to students’ strengths and encourages them to tackle Dark Arts and other magical foes, even helping Harry conjure a Patronus to ward off dementors years before the “standards” dictated.


Teaching Philosophy:

Snape to Lupin: "Possibly no one's warned you, Lupin, but this class contains Neville Longbottom. I would advise you not to entrust him with anything difficult. Not unless Miss Granger is hissing instructions in his ear." [...]

Professor Lupin raised his eyebrows.

"I was hoping that Neville would assist me with the first stage of the operation," he said, "and I am sure he will perform admirably."


Sample Lesson:

With preliminary instruction, students will face a bogart (a creature that appears to be what you fear most) by transforming it into something funny. The lesson will be monitored closely with constant encouragement and assistance from instructor.


Filius Flitwick


Harry Potter Special: Evaluating Hogwarts TeachersSubject: Charms


Professor Flitwick is often underrated among the Hogwarts staff, though his subject is among the most important… perhaps it is due to his small stature.


His gentle demeanor and fierce abilities combine to create a positive learning environment for his students.  He demonstrates patience as his classroom, though it is often filled with bangs, explosions and other frightening results of miscast spells.


Teaching Philosophy:  “"Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practicing! The swish and flick! And saying the magic words properly is very important, too.”


Sample Lesson:

After the instructor demonstrates the levitation charm, students will practice using the incantation “Wingardium Leviosa” and the “swish and flick” wand technique on feathers. Instructor will circle the room giving individualized instruction and encouragement to each student.


Severus Snape


Subject: Potions / Defense Against the Dark Arts


Prof. Snape’s teaching revolves around assigned potions to be made by students during class time, along with reading and research essays. Though he is competent in his subject matter, Snape relies largely on fear and intimidation to motivate students and can create a high-pressure, unpleasant work environment that does not breed the best results from his students. He is also known to play favorites.


Teaching Philosophy:  “I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even put a stopper on death — if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”


Sample Lesson:

Students will follow a potion’s “recipe” posted on the black board with little to no guidance from instructor. Some potions include Swelling Solution, Hair-raising Potion and the Draught of Peace.


Sibyll Trelawney


Harry Potter Special: Evaluating Hogwarts TeachersSubject: Divination


Prof. Trelawney is a well-meaning, kind teacher (unless you doubt her abilities… Hermione). She has Hogwarts and the students’ best interests in mind, but needs more organization and focus to her lessons.  


Prof. Trelawney seems more concerned with creating her image as a “seer” and convincing her students that she really can predict the future than she is about the students’ success. If only she knew that her true Divination talent needs no study.


Bottom line: Spend more time lesson planning and less time forecasting students’ imminent demises.

Teaching Philosophy: “I believe examination passes or failures are of the remotest importance when it comes to the sacred art of divination. If you have the Seeing eye, certificates and grades matter very little.”


“if you do not have the Sight, there is very little I will be able to teach you. Books can take you only so far in this field…”


Sample Lesson:

In pairs, students will read the tea leaves in each others’ cups and interpret them using the guide in Unfogging the Future, pages five and six. Bonus points will be awarded for the grimmest prediction.


Albus Dumbledore


Subject: Formerly Transfigurations/Headmaster/Horcrux-hunting


Prof. Dumbledore showed off his teaching skills in his personal lessons with Harry. His teaching approach relied largely on allowing students the freedom and resources to explore and learn for themselves. He entrusted Harry, Ron and Hermione with real responsibility and learned along with them.


Dumbledore’s main focus was on character education and developing the whole child.


Teaching philosophy:  "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."


"From this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm foundation of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of memory into thickets of wildest guesswork."


Sample Lesson:

Student is tasked with observing memories along with the instructor. Afterward, student will engage in critical thinking and Socratic discussion to hypothesize what potential truths can be drawn regarding hidden horcrux objects and locations.


Who is your favorite Hogwarts teacher? Share in the comments section!

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