by Dennis Selder
While it’s true that Hogwarts is a relatively privileged educational institution in relation to many schools and colleges, Hogwarts too finds it necessary to rely in part on contingent faculty to fill in the gaps in its expertise. Having said this, it is worth pointing out that the ratio of its reliance on these members far beats the national figures—compare Hogwarts’ seven percent with the national average of seventy-five percent.
Sadly, although the stays of these faculty members have often been short-lived, the contributions that they brought and continue to bring to Hogwarts are enormous. In fact, it turns out the reason the school leadership saw fit to make one position contingent wasn’t for lack of funds—Hogwarts, in fact, is very disciplined in limiting the number of administrators it has been willing to take on—but for having been cursed by an earlier applicant whose claim was rejected. I am referring, of course, to Tom Riddle who had originally applied for the Defence Against the Dark Arts (or D.A.D.A) post. Riddle hadn’t seen fit to inform anyone about the curse, and so it was only after several years that other faculty members saw the need for a contingent workforce. As one full-time faculty member Rubeus Hagrid put it: “They’re startin’ ter think the job’s jinxed. No one’s lasted long for a while now.” The efforts of these faculty members, in spite of the curse, should serve as a reminder to all of us of the sacrifices real educators are willing to go to to best serve the interests of their students.
Below I detail the contributions of some of these valiant educators as well as the sad endings that the DADA post led them to.
Quirinus Quirrell. Not atypical of many contingent faculty, Quirinus suffered from anxiety, had a twitchy eye, and needed to make sure he always put on plenty of SPF 100 as he was prone to sunburn. An ability to advance in his career was a
constant sore spot for him, and may explain why he agreed to help Lord Voldemort, something in the end he tried to back out of, even though by that time it was too late. As a scholar, he had a brilliant theoretical mind, especially when it came to Defensive Magic. Sadly, his teaching evaluations were on the poor side, and he complained that he felt no institutional support in trying to improve.
Gilderoy Lockhart. Had Lockhart been able to hold out longer in the DADA post, he almost certainly would have been offered a tenure-track job, for he came to Hogwarts already a celebrity.
In fact, he had written several books on dark creatures and his run-ins with them, although, as some hiring committee members rightly pointed out, publications have little or nothing to do with effective teaching. Also threatening a bid for the tenure-track post were the many prestigious awards he had received, which broke the unwritten “hiring down” policy. These awards included the Order of Merlin, Third Class; Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League; and five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award.
Remus Lupin. The fact that Professor Lupin suffered from a disability had nothing to do with not offering him a tenure-track post. And in fact, professor Lupin was always grateful he had been offered any job at all, given that he suffered from lycanthropy. Professor Lupin was a brilliant teacher and universally well liked. He had the unusual quality of being able to challenge students with difficult material while at the same time maintaining their good will. He also had a knack for being able to connect theoretical material with more practical affairs. When he came out as a werewolf, some parents complained having him around was too risky, and he was forced to leave the post.
Bartemius Crouch Jr. Mr. Crouch came from a family of administrators but lost all respect for them by the time he came to teach at Hogwarts. His father, while possessing the calculating qualities necessary to be a good at management, was not known for his affection, and it had been pointed out more than once that he might have spent a little more time at home when young Barty was growing up.
In spite of his harsh upbringing and anti-authoritarian stance, Barty Jr. was an excellent teacher who provided real value for his students, even as he pursued his own agenda.
Dolores Umbridge. Ms. Umbridge was administrator first, teacher second. Her forced installation as the DADA instructor was a move by the Ministry of Magic to take over the management of Hogwarts, who thought that the Ministry’s business model would lead to improved student outcomes.
In reality, the move turned out to be a disaster. She came to be universally loathed by the students and staff at Hogwarts, suggesting that while top-down approaches may work for corporate America, they are less successful when it comes to education. She was very good at taking attendance and making sure census rosters were in on time.
Severus Snape. Professor Snape was really a full-time professor who assumed the DADA post, irrationally imagining that it would be better than his previous full-time position. Instead it led, as most contingent faculty would have guessed, to increased misery and eventually death.
Snape was a formidable teacher whose gravitas made his lectures unusually easy to listen to, and students were grateful for his instruction, even if his classes were stressful.
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2 Replies to “Contingent Faculty at Hogwarts”
Barty was an excellent teacher because he was impersonating an excellent teacher. That’s why he was so good!