*Note - This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in June of 2016 prior to the deplorable comments and assertions JK Rowling has made about the transgender community. This post doesn't condone her remarks but speaks to her fictional work and the impact it made on me as a person who has often felt like an outsider myself. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't deeply conflicted about my connection to her written work in light of my sensitivity and support of the LGBTQIA2s+ community.
When I was sorted into the Gryffindor on Pottermore, it was no surprise. I probably should have been a Ravenclaw, but I told the sorting hat, Gryffindor and so it was, after all, the sorting hat does take your wants into consideration.
After a particularly fun #sunchat about pop culture in the classroom, I got to thinking about my unnatural, almost stalker-like obsession with the Harry Potter Series.
I've read all of the books including supplemental additions, seen all of the movies (most of them at the midnight showing of their opening day), and visited Universal Florida, just to go to the section themed after the famed character.
When Pottermore started offering a chance to get in on the beta, I eagerly went there every day to get in on the excitement. One of my students tipped me off the day I got accepted, I will never forget the excitement when I found out I was magical.
When my son was old enough to understand, I couldn't wait to start reading the books to him and watching the movies together.
And at school, I've been awarded by my students, the teacher most likely to kill Lord Voldemort and the teacher most likely to attend Hogwarts. I hold these honors in very high esteem.
Like with all good literature, there are many themes and lessons we can learn and apply to our everyday lives.
Harry Potter is no exception.
Here are 10 life lessons from the Harry Potter Series in no particular order: (there could probably be 100)
Friendship and love make life worthwhile. Harry is able to overcome the odds in his early life, even without the guidance of a nuclear family. His friendship with Hermione and Ron and the entire Weasley family help him grow into a man his parents would've been proud of. It is because of these relationships that he is able to persevere over the most terrible circumstances. Even when times get hard for each of us, the people we surround ourselves with will make those times more bearable in life and in the classroom.
We all need help sometimes. In many situations, Harry didn't want to include his friends or allow them to feel the weight of his mostÂ grievousÂ burdens; he thought he could fight the most dangerous wizard alone. He was wrong and luckily for him, his friends were always there to help, even when he didn't want them to be. Without the help of Harry's friends, he could never have accomplished what he did. Although asking for help is often challenging, we will all need and should accept the help of others when the circumstance deems it necessary.
Sometimes it's okay to break the rules. Although notÂ advisableÂ all the time, in certain situations Harry had to break the rules in order to save his friends and/or the school. In life, we all have to make decisions that feel right in our gut. There may be rules that say we shouldn't, but in matters where the greater good will benefit, it's okay. For example, in my school system, there was an electronics policy in place that said students couldn't bring their personal electronic devices to class. My administration allowed me to break this rule because the students were so engaged in their learning and the devices weren't being misused.
Although plans are useful, sometimes you have to just go with them. In the final Harry Potter book (and movie), Harry tells Hermione that they have to go back to Hogwarts to find a Horcrux that is hidden there. Hermione, adamant about methodical planning protests only to have Harry remind her that none of the plans have worked thus far. In life, we can organize and plan, but often things don't go as we expect; there must be a certain level of flexibility and adventure in all of us if we want to succeed in our tasks. This is particularly true in the classroom; with so many different personalities, a teacher must be ready with alternative solutions always. Being flexible is key.
Perseverance is possible, always. Despite Voldemort's exhaustive efforts to kill Harry over a seven-year period, Harry always manages to persevere and save the day. In each of our lives, there will be many obstacles that seem like they can break us, but we can't allow them to, we MUST push on. As teachers, every day is a new day and despite the challenges, hardships, or woes that could ruin our journey, we must remember why we chose this noble profession.
It's okay to ask for what we want. Dumbledore says, "It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Although the sorting hat was confused as to which house Harry belonged in, Harry knew he didn't want to be a Slytherin. Simply asking for what Harry wanted, skewed the hat's decision. When we want something, we must ask for it or else we will never get it.
Don't judge people by what they seem. The obvious first person to consider here is Snape, a teacher who seemed to have it out for Harry since the day he stepped foot into Hogwarts. Later, we find out that Snape has always been protecting Harry because of a
deal he made with Dumbledore and the true love he felt toward Lily Potter, Harry's mother. We will always meet students or colleagues who aren't what they seem. Judging, avoiding, or hating them doesn't help. Always get to know someone, and find out what they are about before you determine your relationship with them.
Words are our most inexhaustible resources. Dumbledore speaks of magic when he uses a similar phrase, but it is so in life. Words have the power to inflict harm or create passion, inspire dreams, and change lives. It's always good to remember the power of what we say and write and be in control of the purpose of our choices.
Don't dwell on the past and forget to live. Although dreams are what propel each of us on our way, when Harry gets mired in the fantasy of his parents in the mirror of Erised, Dumbledore reminds him that he mustn't linger on what can never be because he will miss his opportunity to experience life. Each of us has moments we cling to that comfort in times of challenges, but we can't remain in the past forever, we must always move forward creating new experiences. Great students will grace our classrooms. Amazing moments will happen, but there will always be more and we should cling to that fact, not the old experiences.
Recognize the significance of learning. You never know when any small tidbit of learning will be essential. Many times over the course of the novels, Hermione's learning was able to bail the trio out. Whether it was her knowledge of Devil's Snare or her uncompromising thirst for knowledge in the library, Hermione shows us that being logical and observant will help us through most situations. Although she does state that there are more important things than cleverness, we know her smarts are extremely worthwhile. Students often grace our classrooms disinterested in our subject matter. It is our job to make what we present to them worthwhile and connected to their lives. We must provide them with the skills to find answers to questions they seek, as we continue to find answers to our own questions.
I can probably go on forever as I have connected really deeply with these characters. Both as a young adult and now as an adult. We never know 100% what we will latch on to, so I've learned the importance of keeping an open mind.
What have you learned from Harry Potter? or any other character? Share