“I’ve Always Wanted To Use That Spell”

Oh, Minerva McGonagall.

We’ve reached that point in the school year in which I have transitioned from Professor Umbridge to Professor Snape and finally to Professor McGonagall.  (Though there are times I’ve considered going all Mad Eye Moody and transfiguring a few students into ferrets…darn it all, where’s my Hogwarts letter?!) 

I don’t want to see them go but it’s not forever.


The Battle of Hogwarts

My quotation of the day today:

“May 2nd is a bad day to be evil; Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden and Lord Voldemort, all confirmed dead May 2nd.”

We’re studying the Holocaust right now, so the quotation fits, but it also makes me realize how salient these books are to my life. I grew with Harry, I matured with Harry. Harry has consoled me through at least three broken hearts, several moves, and countless disappointments.

So, it breaks my heart a little bit that my students say, “who’s vold-how do you say that guy’s name, Miss?”

Alas…I have an entire generation to introduce to my fictional world!

Always Packed with Muggles

I love the second semester. I get to mellow out. My routines are set, my kiddos know what I expect, and I get to enjoy them more and more. By the time Spring Break gets here, we’ll be done with state assessments and they’ll be ready to kick some butt.

One of my boys in my advanced class is reading the Potter Series for the first time. I can hardly contain my excitment and my want to talk to him about everything that he’s experiencing. Today was a pretty mellow day: do your assignment, then work quietly as you need to on what you need to. He was reading, also an acceptable activity. He asked me who my favorite character was.

Hermione,” I answered. He responded with Luna. We talked briefly about the validity of many of the characters, agreeing that the only character we truly hated was Umbridge. The student sitting behind him said “I don’t know what you guys are talking about.”

“Muggles,” I said to my reader, rolling my eyes. He grinned.

There’s something so special about sharing literature with another human being. Not everyone will love the Potters, obviously. But just like finding common heritage, or a common friend, finding a common book can spark a connection between two people that the world cannot tear down. I recently read another of the Temperance Brennan Bones novels (I cannot for the life of me remember which) and the two little girls shared Anne Of Green Gables. I instantly felt connected to them.

Don’t worry-the Muggle and I realized that we shared the Percy Jackson books, so even he and I connected.

I love my job.

Again, I don't own the photo, but I love the sentiment.

Again, I don’t own the photo, but I love the sentiment.

In the End, It Was the Effort of Many Who Stopped the Death Eaters

I spent the better part of this weekend avoiding the news, facebook, Twitter…anything that would tell me about the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I sat on the couch Friday night with my roommate, an elementary school teacher, and cried. I cried on and off all day Saturday while painting my dining room. I cried Sunday no matter what I was doing.

This blog helps me reflect on my life as a teacher by making my thoughts analogous to the world of Harry Potter. I am sure it seems silly to some of you that a grown woman is filtering her life through a lens of Potter, but it helps me think and articulate myself.

I come back to several key moments in the series in this tangle mess of thoughts:
1) Harry’s enchantment, which lives in his very skin, of protection against Voldemort because of his mother’s sacrifice of herself to save him.
2) Severus Snape’s willingness to play lap dog to Lord Voldemort for so many years to save the son of a woman he loved and a man he hated, and, ultimately, the rest of the children of the wizarding world as well.
3) Sirius Black’s self-sacrifice to save Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Luna and Neville in the Department of Mysteries.
4) Dumbledore’s calm, diligent search for answers (and Horcruxes) in the last year of his life, knowing full well that if the curse from the Gaunt ring didn’t kill him, Draco Malfoy or, as Dumbledore knew would be the case, Severus Snape would.
5) Snape’s willingness, no matter how reluctant at points, to put himself into exile and live in the nest of darkness at Malfoy Manor, to bring about the end.
6) The loss of Hedwig, Remus Lupin, Nyphadora Tonks, Mad Eye Moody, Alice and Frank Longbottom, Colin Creevy, Lavendar Brown (?), Fred Weasley, Dobby the Elf, Severus Snape, and so many others during the Battle of Hogwarts to allow Harry the time and space to a) track down the unknown Horcrux, b) destroy said Horcrux, c) track down Voldemort, d) get “killed”, e) give Neville the opportunity to kill Nagini, and f) finally, by allowing Voldemort’s own evil to rebound upon him, destroy Voldemort.

Would any parent make a call different than Lily’s? Unfortunately, I believe yes, some might. But those who don’t give their children a future that others can only dream of.

Sometimes, we care about the children in front of us, and don’t always realize the impact we can have on those we can’t see. Snape created a ripple effect, which made a difference in the life of not just Harry, not just Snape’s current students, but all the students to come, the Wizarding Children around the world who would have one day fallen under Lord Voldemort’s juristiction, and the children not yet born.

As Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black pledged himself early on to protect and care for Harry. As a teacher, I made a pledge, years ago, to protect, care for and teach all the students who come into my room in near and far future years. The six made a foolish choice to go to the Department of Mysteries, but their teachers and protectors still loved them and cared for them. As a teacher, I encourage them toward greatness, but understand that they will lose their way from time to time.

Sometimes, we know there’s unpleasantness ahead of us (an angry parent schedules a meeting, a building move, our own personal tragedies) and yet we carry on as teachers. We leave it at the door and focus on our kids, investing in their future. Dumbledore did the same. He knew what he had to do, and he did it, regardless of it being a thankless job.

Teachers who elect to teach in districts where violence rages, drugs rum rampant, parent/student and administrator apathy runs high amaze me. They willingness put themselves in positions to be ridiculed, tormented, sometimes threatened and harrassed, to give their students hope for a brighter future.

This last point, number six, is where I connect directly back to CT and the shooting. Students and staff alike lost their lives on 12/14/12, when one man felt his rights, his desires, and his hatred trumped those of others. He was without apathy, unable to love anyone else, and beyond having consequences for his actions which provided sufficent motivation not to do them. Voldemort’s weapon was his Yew wand and the “Advada Kedavra.” The shooter’s were guns. Almost immediately after the shooting, the Americans who believe strongly in their right to bear arms took to demanding protection of the 2nd Amendment. The Americans who believe strongly in gun control took to demanding gun control. I took to pondering what teachers can do in their classrooms except hide their students, lie to a shooter, cover your kids, and pray.

The teachers of Hogwarts, both time Death Eaters came knocking, did not cower. They fought back, using their wands to cast protective spells, defensive spells, spells designed to disarm or to stun. And, when those did not prove to be enough to stop the evil of the Death Eaters, the teachers and parents of Hogwarts (Molly Weasley who I’m thinking of specifically), took to fighting to kill, finally destroying Bellatrix while Bellatrix taunted her.

I do not believe that just anyone should be allowed to bear arms, but I do not think that disarming the people will protect them in the long run. Having one question on a conceal and carry application regarding mental illness, without a complete psychartic work up, does nothing. We do need stronger gun regulation, and if anyone is going to squawk about their rights being violated because we seek to keep the guns out of the hands of those without empathy, without a moral compass, they need to lose their right. And I do not believe that leaving teachers helpless to hide their students, to cower with their students, and to pray for their students is enough. I don’t believe that every teacher should be armed: I do, however, believe that when an active shooter enters a school, every teacher, paraprofessional, custodian, secretary, principal, etc. becomes another person to fight for the lives of the students. You come into a school with the intention of harming children, you deserve to be shot. If a disarming/wounding shot doesn’t slow you down, then those fighting to get rid of you ought to start shooting to kill.

There’s a lot of gray area here, but it won’t end with one person, just as Harry alone could not have ended the Wizarding War or stopped Voldemort. Voldemort recruited those who shared his beliefs and philsophies. It was Molly who finally took down Bellatrix. It was Neville who destroyed Nagini, Dumbledore who destroyed the Gaunt Ring, Hermione who destroyed the Hufflepuff Cup, Ron (at Harry’s encouragement) who destroyed the locket. We have to be willing to protect our students, to fight to protect them, but we must also raise a generation of students who are willing to make the ulitmate sacrifice (as Harry was willing to do) to save others.

Heros of the Battle

Heros of the Battle

In the End, You Should Have Done More Good Than Harm

I find myself thinking a lot lately about Severus Snape (Snape, Snape, Severus Snape…).  As mentioned in an earlier post (I really need to start blogging more often) my students are in their stage where they no longer view me as Madame Umbridge, but instead as Severus Snape.  I’ll eventually morph into Professor McGonagall, where I’ll stay for most of them.  A few of them I might become their Professor Dumbledore, but that’s another tangent.

No one reading Books 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and especially 6 would argue that Professor Snape is an unlikeable git.  That fact never changes.  However, as early as book 1 (The Sorcerer’s Stone) one begins to wonder why he is such a git if he’s also going to be saving Harry’s life.  More so than that, why is such a person a teacher of teenagers, perhaps the worst age for those with no tolerance for stupidity and clumsiness?

After book one, when Harry finds out that Snape was actually trying to save him during the Quidditch matches, the reader is left with a hint of the question “what is that man up to?”  I see this in my students right now: they ask themselves what I’m doing when I go to bat for them despite their stupid antics, why I’m so cruel as to call their parents at 4:00 on a Friday, and why I insist they make their papers perfect before I accept them. 

Then comes book six, and Snape’s simultaneous “murder” of Harry’s beloved Dumbledore and revelation that Snape was Harry’s mystery mentor, The Half Blood Prince.  Harry leaves nothing but angry and full of hatred for the man (which is how many of my students feel after they are suspended for yet again not doing as they are told and pushing too far).  I’m evil, I’m their enemy, I’m out to get them.

Finally, comes “The Prince’s Tale,” in which Harry learns Snapes motivation (love) and the extent to which Snape sacrificed for Harry and the rest of the wizarding world.  I love my students from the moment their awkward, gawky, hormonally-charged selves walk into my room.  I love them enough to be hard on them, to challenge them, to tolerate their hatred and return it with love (or, at the very least, tolerance and patience, or a snarky remark and a detention).  And, in the end, they see the sacrifice, the love that motivated the actions.

Professor Snape

I still can’t wait until I become McGonagall though.

Things Never to Say to a Teacher (stolen)


I highly suggest you check this out.  I wonder what the Hogwarts version would be.  Seems to me Snape would be the speaker:

“No, Granger, I haven’t graded your test yet.  There isn’t a spell invented that can allow me to do that and still keep Potter alive while despising all of you in a single hour.” 

“Vacation?!  My entire summer is spent spying on the Dark Lord, sucking up to Dumbledore so he’ll eventually give me a cursed post, and pining away for Lily Evans.  But yes, extra time to dream up ways to torment Longbottom works as well.”

And people wonder why I’d like the ability to hex people from time to time.

This Blog Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Love My Hawks

I’m half tempted to not even share this blog, because I don’t want its link, “I Wish I Taught at Hogwarts” to make my students, their parents, my administrators, anyone to think I do not cherish and enjoy my job as a Horace J. Good Hawk (Or as an Abe Hubert Hawk before).  I LOVE my job.

BUT before I am a teacher of reading, and before I can be a teacher of reading, I must first be a voracious reader.  I recently re-watched a childhood favorite, Hocus Pocus, and for the first time in my life it struck me that I really do identify with Winifred Sanderson’s relationship with her book perhaps more than I ever understood the relationship between Thackary and Emily, or Max and Dani, or even Winifred and Billy Butcherson.  I understand her relationship with that book: “Did you miss me?  Mommy missed you!”  Excepting the mother part (My books are more my friends and life coaches than children), this relationship was the most profound to me.

I can track my development with books.  My earliest memories center around the American Girls, specifically Samantha.  From there, I eased myself into The Boxcar Children, and then The Baby Sitter’s Club.  After The Baby Sitter’s Club, but before I began with my next love, I remember a void which was filled with here and theres (I distinctly remember wearing out a copy of Where the Red Fern Grows) but there was no great, defining book series.  Not unsurprisingly, this time period also coincides with my worst academic behavior and my greatest struggle personally.  Thank goodness for The X-Files.  I distinctly remember reading fan fiction (good, bad or ugly) and finally, emerging as a writer of much (really terrible) fan fiction.

I couldn’t tell you the first time I read a Potter novel, or an Anne Shirley novel, or one of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels.  I just couldn’t.  Perhaps this is because those characters, those stories, those worlds have integrated myself completely into who I am.

As for teaching at Hogwarts: My students always start the year thinking I’m Madame Umbridge.  Right about now they start to believe I am more Professor Snape.  By the time Spring Break rolls around, I have morphed into Professor McGonagall, where I irrevocably stay for the rest of their careers.  And this is an analogy I am completely comfortable with.  I would love to roam J.K. Rowling’s fictional universe, to fall into the Prefects’ “hidden swimming pool” bathtub, to learn at the hands of the masters.

It’s not that I don’t love Horace J. Good Middle School.  I adore it.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, encompasses my love of learning quite like the idea of Hogwarts.