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  • Writer's pictureJo Fontana

A Few Thoughts on Severus Snape

The end of the school year is fast approaching and I’ve been thinking a lot about this one particular character. I’ve worked in education and I’ve also worked in middle schools. There has been a lot written about Severus Snape, but I haven’t seen much written about him as a teacher aside from the fact that he’s strict and can sometimes be cruel. I don’t think anyone has addressed what it’s like to have to manage a classroom of adolescents and why he sometimes acted the way that he did.

There are times when it’s understandable that Snape lost his cool with the students. I’m not saying he was justified in his verbal assaults on students, however, there is an element to it that those of us who have worked in schools might understand. Harry came to Hogwarts when he was eleven years old. That’s the same age most children begin middle school. Hogwarts, in essence, seems to be a combination of middle school (junior high) and high school.

That being said, some of the most tumultuous years for students are the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Seventh grade appears the be the toughest grade for students not only because of hormones, but the classwork also becomes more demanding. If any of you have worked as a teacher or any type of staff in a middle school, you might understand what I’m talking about.

Now Severus Snape had no choice—he had to teach the younger grades because those students needed at least a rudimentary understanding of potions, which they were unlikely to get at home or outside of school. (It seems understandable that he would be particular about which students he taught for upper levels, just like in high school, not every student would be eligible for this class.) The same us true for core classes in Muggle middle schools. The students need a firm foundation before they continue on to high school. The students may not be able to take specific classes due to GPA, etc.

Discipline and consistency are a must when dealing with middle school aged students. They have a hard enough time dealing with their emotions and each other. Most are not mature enough to navigate the seventh grade with little direction and supervision. Snape obviously understood this and it’s clearly demonstrated by Ms. Rowling.

The seventh grade (or year two) was the year that Harry and Ron pulled off their most outrageous stunt. I’m referring to, of course, the flying car incident. This is a good example of seventh graders doing things without thinking it through. It’s telling that Snape is the one to find Harry and Ron out on the grounds. Snape was all for discipline—even more so when it came to Harry. I may not agree with some of Snape’s methods, but I do agree that Harry needed some consistent guidance—even if it came with a little snark.

Snape's one of the strictest teachers, and was also one of the youngest ever to teach at Hogwarts. It stands to reason that there may be something to be desired in regards to how he managed the classroom. It’s highly unlikely that Snape had a lot of guidance in regards to classroom management, seeing how Dumbledore rarely seemed to interfere unless Snape went overboard. So it’s very likely that Snape didn’t have much guidance in classroom management. It’s hard to argue that his style was ineffective though. I can’t help but wonder if Snape’s classroom management skills would have changed somewhat if he had such guidance, but seeing how Snape was still such an insecure person, it’s highly unlikely his style would have changed much either way.

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