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Hagrid, Hogwarts, and Me


It’s the beginning of the school year in most of the world, which means one thing: time to go back to Hogwarts. September always makes me think of Harry Potter and his friends starting classes at the school everyone wishes they attended.

The Guatemalan school year runs from January to mid-October, so I’m nearing the end of my first year teaching English. Recently, after a particularly stressful and frustrating day, I took a moment to reflect on my current position as a teacher.

I came to Guatemala with no experience in education, childhood development, or Teaching English as a Second Language. I arrived here with the attitude that I was willing to do anything Valley of the Angels needed, except teach. Clearly, God had other plans for me. At the exact time I came, an English teaching position had just been vacated. I took on the task with the idea that teaching would be temporary. Seven months later and I’m still an English teacher!

I work with young children who constantly provide me with opportunities to improve my patience. There are moments with them where I want to leave the classroom and never come back. There are also moments where I want to envelop all of my students in a big hug and never let them go. Each day is a chance to become a better teacher and teach the children to become better students and people.

When I was reflecting on everything that had gone wrong with my third graders that day, an image flooded my mind of Harry Potter’s first friend: Hagrid.

Hagrid is a memorable character and one of the few constants in Harry’s life. He’s clumsy, generous, loyal, and has a big heart for all animals. In the third book of the Harry Potter series, Hagrid stumbles into a teaching position and quickly proves that he’s not an ideal educator.

Hagrid makes quite a few mistakes during his lessons due to his affinity for dangerous animals which he claims are simply misunderstood. Soon, students start complaining about his class and even Harry admits that Hagrid is a better grounds-keeper than teacher. However, Hagrid puts his heart into his lesson planning and conveys his love for nature and its creatures.

Suddenly I realized that when it comes to teaching, I am more Hagrid than assured and dependable Professor McGonagall. Like Hagrid, I try to do what’s best for my students and put a lot of work into my lessons, but I make mistakes and often doubt my abilities as a teacher. Compared to a seasoned and confident teacher like McGonagall, I’m as awkward as a first-year.

Upon unpacking this analogy further, I decided that I originally sold Hagrid a little short. Yes, he allows some unpredictable creatures to be around young children, but his intentions are good and come from the heart. At first glance he may seem to be a bumbling half-giant, but his kindness and love for both his students and the subject he teaches outweigh his faults

At the end of the day, whether I am happy with the classes I taught or not, I know that I did everything I could. I’m teaching because I love the children at Valley. My most important job here is to be present and love them, and that love manifests itself in teaching English because it’s what they most need from me. I’m imperfect and still have a lot to learn, but I can follow the great example of my friend Hagrid.

Maeve on a studio tour of the set of the Harry Potter movies in London

Maeve on a studio tour of the set of the Harry Potter movies in London

Maeve Gilheney-Gallagher is a returned lay missioner with Franciscan Mission Service who served for two years at Valley of the Angels orphanage in Guatemala City, Guatemala. She currently serves on the FMS Board and works as the Global Solidarity Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Mission. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, Dan, and three-legged dog, Lola.