Student Well-Being Opinion

Teaching Wisdom from #HarryPotter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

By Starr Sackstein — July 03, 2016 4 min read
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The plot thickens as Harry learns more about the truth of his life and his parents’ lives. The addition of Sirius Black allows Harry to know family for the first time.

Up until now, Harry Potter has successfully overcome two attempts by Voldemort to return and change the course of his existence.

It’s important, that we teach our students that tough times will come, but with perseverance, courage, friendship and a bit of good luck, anything is possible.

Harry is an extremely likeable, but adolescent character. The reader identifies with him and feels for him - cheering him through his journey. As teachers, we often have to watch our students slay their own dragons, knowing that it is hard to sometimes watch, but it’s their battle to fight.

Teachers have an obligation to support their students through it all and so it comes to some more wisdom from the third novel in the series.

  • “I don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me.” I think a lot of adolescents believe that they make good choices and therefore trouble tends to find them. We need to teach our students how to mitigate situations that can lead them down the wrong path. As teachers we have the opportunity to help students avoid trouble when it finds them, much like the teachers at Hogwarts try to support Harry. Sometimes, however, students do have their demons to battle and we can only be supportive without judgement.

  • “You think the dead we loved truly ever leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly in times of great trouble?” When a student loses someone, it is important for a teacher to be available to listen, offer guidance as needed. We need to help students know that when someone passes we don’t lose the memory of the person; it’s our right to keep them with us always, particularly in times of discord.

  • “Don’t let the muggles get you down.” I love the play on this one with the muggles instead of the man. As teachers we can allow many outside forces to dictate our mood, practice and other related outcomes. That just can’t be acceptable. Administration and educational leaders have their own concepts of what is right and when we believe in our mission, it is completely acceptable to stand behind it no matter what. We can’t allow others to dictate our ability to persevere.

  • “I knew I could do it all this time,” said Harry, “because I’d already done it... does that make sense?” When we are teaching students something new, confidence is usually the largest stumbling block. A child can feel that venturing out of one’s confort zone can be very challenging. If we can “trick” them into accomplishing something without realizing they’ve done it, when it comes time to replicate the feat or show progress, we merely need point back to the activity they’ve already completed. Like Harry so aptly puts to Hermione, that he had a feeling within him where he knew he could do it. Confidence is what will help any person excel through a task because they aren’t afraid of the risk of failure. This is a precious gift.

  • “Mischief Managed.” This is the story of every substitute teacher’s life. Because they are not “real” teachers (at least to the students), they are often thrown into a room like a babysitter to manage the kids and ensure order. We need to treat our subs as more than just observers and reporters. If we provide meaningful work for students to do or create absentee protocols, substitute teachers can actually help us maintain the flow of the class.

  • “What you fear most of all is - fear. Very wise...” This is so interesting. Often kids and adults fear failure or insects or any number of things that can get in the way of success. Fearing fear is something that can keep that all in check. It’s natural and necessary for humans to feel fear as it keeps us safe in dangerous situations, but it can also be a powerful deterrent that keeps us from living our lives. We all must strive to truly become present in our every day because each experience makes us more ready to conquer the world.

  • “The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.” No one truly knows what will happen tomorrow and we all make a ton of mistakes, that’s what life is about... we are here to help kids rebound from the mistakes and turn the negatives into positives so that their future can be more predictable. If we know what we want in our future, we can align our actions and goals to help us have a better chance of achieving those goals.

With the shift in the novel, we see a shift in Harry, like we often see in our students as they begin to mature. The issues become more complicated and helping them stay on a positive path more challenging.

How do you help your students make good decisions as adolescence begins to entice them in different directions?

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.