Harry Potter has played an integral role in my life ever since I read the first book so many years ago. Despite not being the “typical” age of most Potter fans, I have been devoted to the storyline and the world created by J.K. Rowling.
Reading has always been a preferred escape for me, and whether I’ve been immersed in the novels or a movie marathon, I’ve always found my attachment to the characters an easy way to connect with my students and other people who have latched onto the lure that comes with the Potter world.
For so many reasons, I’ve escaped to Hogwarts throughout my life, sometimes to my son’s chagrin. When he was younger, we read the books dutifully at night and watched the accompanying movies until he grew out of them and I fell deeper in love. Fortunately, I married a man who understands the connection and can enjoy a movie with me from time to time.
That being said, I’m often reminded of how much we can learn from the characters from this beloved universe.
Each of the below quotes speaks to learning we can and should be sharing with students to help them develop into better, more well-rounded kids.
Dumbledore utters the following in the first novel, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” And it is so true. As teachers and parents, we have to teach our kids to be able to speak their truths to keep their friends safe even when they fear what will happen because of it. Neville stands up to the trio because he doesn’t want Gryffindor to suffer for their indiscretions, and he is rewarded later for his bravery.
In the Chamber of Secrets (book 2), Dumbledore issues this important reminder, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” We must always teach our students that they have the power to make good choices as those are things that will define them and the paths they will walk on. This aligns with having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset; fixed- mindset individuals would rely on their abilities and never choose to push harder.
Sirius Black reminds us that we are all capable of good and bad, but our choices are what defines us in the Order of the Phoenix (book 5). “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” Harry is struggling with the challenges and changes of being an adolescent and PTSD after losing Cedrick in the Goblet of Fire, and he fears that because of the bad things he has experienced, that he would turn bad. Many of us work with students who have lived through horrific trauma, and we need to help them understand that these traumas don’t define them.
Hagrid reminds us in the Goblet of Fire that we must be who we are. The people who love us and know us will accept all of us, and those who don’t aren’t worth it. “I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.” We mustn’t be ashamed of who we are, no matter what. If the folks we choose to have around us can’t accept all of us, then sadly, they aren’t worth it.
Hermione reminds us that emotions are deep and complex in the Half-Blood Prince, “Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.” When children understand that they can feel a plethora of feelings at the same time, they don’t judge themselves for having them. We all must work to allow ourselves to feel whatever we feel so we can process those emotions and grow from the experience.
Perhaps one of Dumbledore’s most profound statements about the power of words reminds us that what we say and how we behave has an impact. “Words are in my not-so-humble opinion, the most inexhaustible form of magic we have, capable both of inflicting injury and remedying it.” This quote sits on my desk as a reminder of the power each of us has. Whether on social media or on a playground, we have a responsibility to be accountable for what we say and how we say it. We can change the world with the right words or cripple it with the wrong. In the current political environment, it is an adult’s responsibility to model the power of choosing kindness for all.
Literature has an incredible way of teaching young people how best to behave in a number of situations. As educators, we must introduce students to all kinds of literature to help them get these valuable lessons. Character building is more important than ever, and students are learning lessons whether we teach them or not. If we choose to be intentional, we can ensure that students will be both kinder and more resilient, and popular childhood favorites can model that behavior in a way students can understand.
What is your favorite quote for building character from literature or otherwise? Please share
*photo courtesy of Starr Sackstein
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.