Lighting the way


Yesterday a fifth-grader caught me in the hallway:

“Mrs. Haley, do you have a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in your room?”

 “I have two copies. Ask your teacher if you can walk with me to get one.”

He did. As we walked, I said, “The Chamber of Secrets is a great book. I enjoyed it more than The Sorcerer’s Stone.”

“Yeah, I haven’t read Chamber of Secrets. I saw the movie and my favorite part is when Harry gets the cloak of invisibility and finds that mirror where he sees his family.”

“Ah, the Mirror of Erised … I just read that aloud to two classes at another school last week while they were studying fantasy.”

In that chapter, Harry receives the cloak of invisibility at Christmas with an anonymous note explaining that it had belonged to his father; he is admonished to “use it well.” He sneaks around Hogwarts, hidden by the cloak, and ends up in a remote, off-limits part of the building in what appears to be a storage room. He finds a large, ornate mirror. Erised backwards is desire – looking in the Mirror of Erised shows a person the deepest desires of his or her heart. Harry’s family is dead; he desperately wishes he could have known them. He is transfixed by their images in the mirror – they wave at him, and his mother wipes away her tears as she smiles at Harry.

I think, as I rummage through my basket of Potter books, Fascinating how it’s the humanity that draws us, more than the magic. 

“Here you, go,” I say to the student. “The Chamber of Secrets.”

His face lights up when I place it in his hands. “Thanks, Mrs. Haley!”

“Read it well,” I call after him, as he walks away, flipping pages.

I look around my room, my own chamber decorated with Potter memorabilia that draws children from across grade levels. They love to drop by to show me their owl collections, to ask if I’ve read The Cursed Child, to share anything Harry Potter that they’ve recently acquired. The Harry Potter club meets here twice a month, students from third through fifth grades, and we talk so much more about what motivates the characters than the magic they employ.

My Lumos glass box gleams in the corner by the doorway. I think of all the times that teachers might wish we had magic wands to show us everything the kids need, to fix all that needs fixing. I recall J.K. Rowling’s quote from her 2008 Harvard speech, now connected to her Lumos charity on behalf of children:

“We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.”

It’s apparent whenever I read with the kids, whenever the Potter club meets and someone has an epiphany about a character, whenever I walk into a classroom to write with students and teachers. The essence of teaching, of reading, of writing more than anything else, is the connection of human minds and hearts. It’s all part of same story, the triumph of the human spirit. Teach it, read it, write it well – tap into all you’ve known, all you’ve loved, all you’re wrestling with, and watch their faces.

It’s all inside you. Light the way.

slice-of-life_individualEarly Morning Slicer




15 thoughts on “Lighting the way

  1. YES! “It’s all inside you. Light the way.”
    However, conversations with students, like yours above, help light the way! So great that this student knew exactly who would have the Harry Potter book!
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You had me at Harry Potter. I immediately clicked on the link when I saw those two words. That hold so much meaning for me. HP brought my family together as readers. My husband didn’t read before HP. When my daughter wanted to read them early on, he said he would to, so he could talk with her about them.
    I’m reading Sorcerer’s Stone aloud to a class for the first time ever. And again, it’s connecting us in ways I never knew were possible. I too, have Hogwarts tags on lockers, House Elves as jobs, and fly the house banners in my classroom. My this connection. That’s where the magic is. Thank you for this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thank you for replying! I celebrate the discovery of another kindred Potter spirit! The kids know the movies but our club and my read-alouds (I occasionally dress as Hermione, robes and all) make kids hunger for reading the books themselves. It’s an extraordinary connection. I’ve often thought I could teach anything that needs to be taught through Harry Potter and Charlotte’s Web. Keep the magic alive!


  3. I so agree with you. It is getting the student excited about reading and then the connections can be made. I love talking Harry Potter with the kids. I need to find the time to reread the last few books, now that I have seen the movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, learning should be fun. Whatever is a chore to the teacher will be a chore to the students. When we tap into what we love, the passion is contagious! It’s one of the reasons I so enjoy teaching writing, watching the students catch the spark. Harry Potter is a topic that never fails to connect. Enjoy rereading! I do it every year!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I clicked because of the Harry Potter (I’m currently listening to The Half-Blood Prince in the car), but stayed because this was beautiful. HP’s magic draws the kids in, but its humanity makes them stay. Here is a quote from another favorite author, “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” (Kate Di Camillo) . Thank you for this wonderful story today.


  5. I just finished Cursed Child a few weeks ago and have had this little urge to go back and reread the series since then–and after reading this post, it’s become even more of a priority. You are so right about the humanity–when I read Cursed Child, I cared so much more about what happened to the characters and their relationships than I ever did about what spells they were going to use. Beautiful post! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found CC so satisfying on a number of levels – Harry, always so real, struggling with his own child, and the healing of old rifts as well as the wonderful depiction of psychotic Hermione if she hadn’t ended up with Ron! I feel the books “calling” me from time to time and no matter how often I reread, I do not want to stop once I’ve started. Excited that you feel inspired to reread! Thank you for letting me know!


  6. I totally love your comment, “Read it well.” What a perfect line of encouragement and invitation. My own two children now 16 and 18 have reread the Harry Potter books at different times in their life and noticed that they were never the same experiences. I am grateful to J.K. Rowling everyday!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Paula. When I made the comment, I was thinking how Harry’s note (from Dumbledore) about the cloak read “wear it well,” as the student and I had been talking about that section of the book. I know he will read it well, as he desires to. I am amazed anew at the response to Harry Potter, across generational lines. I see something in a different way every time I reread — yes, how wonderful that your children love the books so well!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.” I love this quote. I just wish more of my students believed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the quote, too, and believe it. Our students have to be encouraged to believe in themselves – they all have an array of gifts they may not yet realize. So do we, sometimes!


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