Part 4 of a series exploring practical applications of the Harry Potter series in a Christian youth formation context. Introduction here.
In Part 3, I talked about some of the teachers at Hogwarts who got mentioned in The Chamber of Secrets and critiqued their teaching skills. For this post and the next, I want to look at two beloved Hogwarts teachers who are central to The Prisoner of Azkaban – consider this your spoiler alert!
Also, as I warned everyone at the outset, I may also be critiquing Hogwarts and some of my own favorite characters. Because if we can’t be honest about the shortcomings of fictional characters, how much less likely are we to be honest about the real flesh and blood people who are our friends and compatriots.
OK, with that being said, here goes.
I love Hagrid. His steadiness, decency, and kindness are a bedrock of the Harry Potter series. And in The Prisoner of Azkaban, he is named professor of Care of Magical Creatures, which is a great fit for him.
I worry, however, that he was set up to fail. Based on my observations of his class at Hogwarts, it seems to me he wasn’t given much guidance or training to help him be an effective teacher.
Here are three ways in which it would have been helpful for Hagrid to receive some training, or to have support from colleagues, a mentor, or a supervisor:
- Picking the right reading material It may be that The Monster Book of Monsters is just the thing for the class Hagrid is teaching. But a mentor teacher would (hopefully) have known that Hagrid needed to send extra instructions on how to deal with the book, both to Flourish and Blotts and to the students. Or the mentor teacher might have suggested starting with something a little less challenging.
- Starting at the right level of information Hagrid begins his first lesson by introducing Hippogriffs. He wants to give the students something special to start off the year. And, yes, Malfoy did indeed provoke the Hippogriff and exaggerate his injury. But he still got injured. Hagrid wasn’t experienced enough to know that he needed to understand his class’ skill level and personalities and, I think, jumped in too deep. Again, I don’t blame Hagrid for this. I wish he’d had a mentor or supervisor who could have suggested taking time for introductions, setting ground rules, and learning safety measures before introducing high-level magical creatures.
- Overcorrecting for mistakes After the Hippogriff incident, Hagrid resorts to teaching about Flobberworms for the rest of the year. Flobberworms are safe, but incredibly boring. Hagrid doesn’t seem to have anyone to help him course correct to the right level: challenging, informative, yet appropriate for the skills of his students. And so no one his happy: not Hagrid, who feels like a failure, nor his students who are bored to the back teeth. There’s nothing wrong with failing when we take on something new. But if there’s no way for us to process what happens when things go wrong and no one to back us up, it becomes very difficult to course correct.
For Hagrid, it’s not enough that he loves magical creatures and knows how to work with them himself. It’s not even enough that he wants to be a good teacher and give his students a good experience. Hagrid (as do almost all of us) need coaching and support in order to succeed when taking on a new role.
The lesson for us in faith formation is: when we are asking people to lead our confirmation classes or other formation groups, are we providing the proper care of these magical creatures?