Yesterday was one of those days when I was reminded how lovely a place social media has the potential to be. It was 1st September and #backtoHogwarts was everywhere on Twitter and Instagram, as people took magical photos to mark the departure of the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. The joyful atmosphere surrounding that hashtag got me thinking about how muggles always dread going back to school and I imagined an alternate world where every student actually faced the oncoming academic year with the same enthusiasm as Hogwarts’ students. I came to the conclusion that there are many lessons which High Schools could learn from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to make the education system a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Whilst, Hogwarts is not without it’s faults (the fate of multiple Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers was at the very least unsavoury), it was considered a second (or first in some cases) home by its students rather than a place of misery and boredom which many High School attendees regard their schools as being.
Without further ado, here are just some of the lessons High Schools would do well to learn from Hogwarts:
1. Never underestimate pupils
For many, High School can be a time of confidence-crushing experiences, in which teachers impart on you the impression that success will always remain out of reach during your life. People who do not excel during classes are often told that they are destined for failure whilst they are at a startlingly tender age and have not had time to let their talents bloom yet. I’ve known someone very close to me who was told in primary school that he would not be able to progress through the school system and would have to be withdrawn to a specialist school to have even a slim chance of reaching his GCSEs. However, he is now completing the third year of his University degree. High Schools could learn a great deal from the stories of Hogwarts’ students such as Neville Longbottom. Neville was constantly undermined and chastised by his teachers for his anxious and forgetful demeanour, so his talents went vastly overlooked for many years as teachers did not invest time in developing his self-confidence. Yet, it was Neville who destroyed the last Horcrux and was able to wield the Sword of Gryffindor which only choses the most noble witches and wizards to be of use to. If there is anything to glean from Neville’s school years, it is that pupils should not be underestimated simply because there talents are not easy to spot from a distance, those who flourish slowly are infinitely valuable too.
2. Everyone needs a Hagrid during their school years
Although his cooking was perhaps not up to much and his unwavering trust in all magical creatures sometimes put his pupils in less than comfortable situations, Hagrid was often a crucial shoulder to cry on, especially for Harry, Ron and Hermione. I could think of no-one better to lead the first years from the Hogwarts Express across the Great Lake with his guiding light showing them all the way. Hagrid’s kind and open heart endeared him to his students (except for certain Slytherin cohorts) and by being such a generous soul, he showed his pupils that they should not believe in all the stereotypes they are fed due to his being an unconventional giant. His passion for his subject shone through in every lesson he conducted whilst he strived extremely hard to make every lesson enjoyable for his students, his heart always being in the right place. With the restrictions in school funding in the muggle world, pupils often do not get all the pastoral care they deserve. High School can be a confusing and isolating experience for too many pupils and a Hagrid-like figure could make all the difference in making their experience more bearable. School is not only about academics and peoples’ final grades, an emphasis too should be placed on the learning of core values which will help shape students into adults who are equipped for the world ahead of them and who have had confidence instilled in them by understanding figures like Hagrid.
3. Food is important too!
I believe that Ron would be especially passionate about this point considering his undying passion for Hogwarts’ feasts in the Great Hall as well as any sugary treats he could get his hands on. Whilst I do not expect High Schools to lay on extravagant feasts for students, food is an extremely important fuel to facilitate learning during the school day. Joking aside, too many pupils have to go to school each day on an empty stomach because their families’ could not afford to feed them breakfast and that reality is heartbreaking. When food is scarce at home, pupils often struggle to concentrate and take information in during lessons, rendering them at a distinct disadvantage to other pupils whose families are able to afford sufficient nutrition. Poverty creates a chasm of inequality in every level of schooling, so schools need to have the funding made available to them so that they are able to give pupils at least a good breakfast and hot lunch, in order for them to get anything out of the school day, something which the Hogwarts house elves who worked in the kitchen would agree with wholeheartedly!
4. A feeling of belonging makes all of the difference
If a student feels like they have a real place at school, their academic efforts and contribution to the establishment can increase hugely. Partially due to the house system, the vast majority of Hogwarts students felt a sense of belonging inside that magical, grand castle. Pupils worked hard for their house because they wanted their house to succeed at the end of the year and also because their house became another family to them. For me personally, I never felt comfortable being at school during all those years I was at different establishments. I was on edge constantly during the school day waiting for the next taunt to be flung at me from one of my classmates or worrying about who I would be able to hang-out with at lunch. Feeling like the odd-one-out made me resent school and, as a result, I never contributed during classes because I was always worried about the reaction of my peers. Essentially, I never found a place for myself at school. However, at Hogwarts, the feeling of belonging students had was something for them to fall back on during hard times. Even if the library was your safe place, as in the case of Hermione, there was always a space for pupils to slot into at Hogwarts which stopped them from feeling completely adrift.
5. Get yourself a Professor McGonagall
You would never want to get on the wrong side of her and she dealt-out her fair share of tough love but Professor McGonagall was a pivotal figure in her students’ lives. Minerva McGonagall had the ability to chastise a pupil for their wrongdoings perfected beyond that of most other teachers, however she also had the ability to sit a student down, offer them a biscuit and give them some crucial words of wisdom. She was an extraordinary teacher who treated her pupils with a very real sense of love and protection. Overworked teachers and underfunded High Schools mean that students are not able to be given the sort of Professor McGonagall-esque treatment that they deserve. Teachers do not have the time and schools do not have the resources to stretch every pupils and make sure that everyone reaches or exceeds their potential whilst also making them feel cared for like Professor McGonagall did.
I hope you enjoyed these little Hogwarts-inspired pointers and please drop any more that you can think of in the comments if you have ideas on how to make school more enjoyable and preferably more like Hogwarts! Thank you for reading and, as always, feel free to reach out to me on social media if you wish…