Chapter 1 : Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn
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A/N: This fic is dedicated to all my fellow teachers at HPFF. I hope you enjoy it.
Annie Parker picked up the whiteboard eraser and cleaned the whiteboard of the day’s work. The last session had been quite satisfying. She had decided to allow the students of her grade six class to collect water samples from a nearby pond then bring the samples back to class and study the contents. Various students had approached her throughout the class to express their amazement at their own discoveries. Sketches had been made and notes had been taken. Finally the samples were returned to the pond and each student had left for home chatting excitedly about the lesson.
Annie smiled to herself as she straightened up the papers and books upon her desk. She always enjoyed teaching hands-on lessons to the students. She always found that children learned so much more from exploring and experiencing the world around them than from simply copying words from a book.
Annie brushed a loose strand of dark brown hair from her face before picking up her briefcase and heading towards the door. As she reached to turn off the lights, she was met by a stern looking woman whom she had never met before. The woman stood tall and wore a hardened expression on her face. Her dress was neat; she wore a black pencil skirt, a white blouse and a black tailored jacket. Her hair was pulled back into a severe bun.
“Good afternoon, Miss Parker,” she said courteously, extending her hand.
Annie shook the woman’s hand cordially.
“How may I help you?” Annie asked, shifting the weight of her briefcase into her opposite hand.
“May we sit?” The woman suggested.
Annie pulled out two seats from the closest desk and both women sat down. For Annie sitting at the desk was no problem as she was not much taller than a grade six student, however, the elder woman looked distinctly discomposed as her height meant that she was ill-suited to sitting in a seat designed for a twelve-year-old.
“My name is Professor McGonagall,” said the woman, in a Scottish accent, “I am the Headmistress of a school in Great Britain. In fact it is a highly prestigious school for students with special…er…talents.”
“I see,” said Annie, wondering why this woman was sitting in her classroom.
“It has come to my attention that you, Miss Parker, are quite a gifted teacher. I cannot reveal to you how I came to know this, but it is none-the-less true and this makes you a perfect candidate for a new position in our school.”
“You want me to teach at your school?” asked Annie, a little flabbergasted, “In the UK?”
“Yes, I do,” said McGonagall, “You are a skilled educator and you have a great affinity with the students you teach. I would be honoured for you to teach at Hogwarts.”
“Hogwarts? I’ve never heard of it.”
“I don’t expect you would have,” McGonagall smiled, “It is a very special school. I must admit, Miss Parker, there is another reason I am asking you to take this post rather than other teachers whose skills are quite equal to yours. But before I continue, I would like to know how you feel about teaching in our school, and I must inform you that we teach students aged eleven to seventeen.”
“I have always dreamed of teaching overseas, especially in the United Kingdom,” Annie replied, “However I have only taught children as old as twelve before, I’m not sure how I would handle teaching adolescents with attitude problems.”
“I’m sure you could handle yourself quite well, Miss Parker, besides once students reach fifth year they are mostly too focused on their studies to misbehave and of course I am always there to support you if you need it.”
“This sounds like a wonderful opportunity.”
“Then I must tell you the rest,” McGonagall continued, “I chose you for another reason, because you seem to be quite open minded towards ideas of, well to be honest, magic.”
“Yes. You see Hogwarts is a school for young witches and wizards, at our school they learn subjects such as Potions and Charms. It is a place for them to learn to control and enhance their magical abilities.”
“But why would you need me, I know nothing about magic,” Annie commented, still trying to take in all the information being given to her, “I’m not magical at all.”
“That’s quite alright,” McGonagall replied, “Magical abilities will be totally unnecessary for the post I want you to fill. I would like for you to teach Muggle Studies.”
“Muggle Studies? But I don’t even know what a Muggle is, how am I supposed to teach about it?”
“A Muggle is a non-magical person,” McGonagall explained, “Such as yourself.”
“So you want me to come to your school and teach students about non-magical people?”
“This is a big decision and a lot to process,” Annie said, honestly.
“Understandable,” nodded McGonagall, “I don’t require you to make an immediate decision. Unfortunately I do have to go straight back to Hogwarts for urgent business this evening. I will send you a letter first thing in the morning with details of travel, should you wish to take up the post. If you decide against it, simply return the letter stating your wish to decline.”
Both women stood and shook hands.
Annie awoke the following morning, thinking her meeting with Professor McGonagall must have been a dream. After all, as much as Annie loved all things magical, there couldn’t possibly be a real school for witches and wizards.
Annie stretched and climbed out of bed. She was just sliding her feet into her slippers when she noticed a tawny owl sitting upon her windowsill clutching a letter in its claw.
Annie opened the window, allowing the owl to fly into her room and perch itself on the wooden bed end. Annie approached the bird cautiously, not wanting to spook it, however the bird remained perfectly stationary, as if it had done this a million times.
Annie retrieved the letter from the owl and pried open the seal. Annie’s mouth fell open in shock as she read the neat handwriting upon the page.
Dear Miss Parker,
As per our conversation yesterday, I have enclosed an airline ticket to London where you will take the London Underground to King’s Cross Station. There you will board the Hogwarts Express at 11am on September the First. I will meet you at Hogsmeade station upon its arrival.
You have just over a month before you are due to arrive at Hogwarts, I believe this will be ample time to start planning for your subject Muggle Studies which, of course, you know as the study of non magical people. I leave it in your capable hands to plan your lessons, you are free to teach the students whatever you feel would be appropriate, I have total faith in you. You will be teaching third years through seventh years (in other words thirteen to seventeen year olds). There are some guidelines in regards to teaching material for fifth and seventh year students due to the tests they will be required to take at the end of the year, but for the other year levels I am giving you free reign. I have included the Ministry guidelines for students in fifth and seventh years to help you with your planning.
I hope to see you at Hogsmeade station on September the First. If you have decided against taking the post, please reply via the owl that delivered this letter.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Annie was temporarily frozen to the spot. It was true. She had been asked to teach at a school for witches and wizards, in the United Kingdom of all places!
Annie pondered for a moment, weighing up the pros and cons. She knew nothing about this magical world, but the concept was something beyond her wildest dreams. She had never taught students in that age group, but she felt confident that she could do it. She would have to leave all her friends and family to travel overseas, but it had always been a dream of hers to teach in the United Kingdom. There was no doubt that this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Annie grabbed a spare piece of paper and a pen, and wrote her reply.
Dear Professor McGonagall,
I would be delighted to accept the position of Muggle Studies teacher at your school. I will see you on the first of September at Hogsmeade station.
Annie reached Kings Cross Station in London on the precise day and time that Professor McGonagall had indicated and wheeled her suitcase towards the platforms. She retrieved her train ticket from her bag and glanced at the platform number, 9 ¾. Annie did a double take.
“Surely they’ve misprinted the ticket,” she thought to herself, as she headed towards platform nine.
As she stood there waiting nervously for the train, she surveyed the people hurrying this way and that. She noticed some seemed to dress rather oddly.
“Perhaps it is just London fashion,” she mused.
As she stared idly at the platform barrier between platforms nine and ten, she noticed a curious family of several children. The eldest was holding a caged owl, while the youngest was being scolded for holding a stick-like object, which the mother promptly hid from sight. Annie suspected that this family might just be a family of witches and wizards.
“At least I’m on the right platform,” she thought.
Then, before her eyes, the strangest thing happened. One minute the boy with the owl was leaning casually against the platform barrier, the next minute he had completely disappeared. Annie continued to watch as the mother ushered the youngest child towards the barrier. She too disappeared. As one-by-one the family disappeared through the barrier, Annie began to feel that there was more to her ticket than a simple error.
After the last of the family had disappeared, Annie approached the barrier. She reached out her hand towards the barrier, expecting to feel the roughness of the bricks, however she was surprised to find her hand melt into the barrier. Annie looked around furtively to make sure no one was looking, and then stepped through the barrier.
She emerged into the hustle and bustle of hundreds of children and parents. Bags and suitcases were being dragged onto a gleaming red steam train while parents said tearful good byes or offered words of warning to their children about being good this year.
Annie dragged her own suitcase onto the train and found an empty compartment. As the train pulled away from the station, Annie was thankful that she wasn’t joined by any students. It gave her time to go over her teaching plans.
Several times on the journey she noticed students walking by her window doing strange things, such as blowing multicoloured bubbles from their mouths or suddenly sprouting antlers.
Annie dozed off briefly and was woken by a kind looking lady with a trolley.
“Anything from the trolley, dear?” the lady asked.
Annie fumbled for her purse.
“Oh no, teachers don’t have to pay,” the woman chuckled.
“Can I have one of those pasties and one of those cakes, please,” Annie said, “And some liquorice.”
“One Pumpkin Pasty, one Cauldron Cake and a Liquorice Wand,” said the witch, handing them to Annie.
Annie was greeted by McGonagall at Hogsmeade station, where they climbed inside a horseless carriage.
They pulled up outside a magnificent castle. McGonagall showed Annie inside a giant hall and quickly introduced her to the other teachers.
Already students were pouring into the hall, their chatter filling the entire room. McGonagall took her leave, apologising that she had to collect the first years from the boats.
Annie took a moment to admire her surroundings, staring in amazement at the ceiling, which looked like the night sky.
McGonagall returned and called the students to order before placing a tattered old hat upon a stool in the middle of the stage.
Annie was astounded when the brim of the hat opened and started singing a song. She was further astounded when each first year approached and had a house announced to him or her by the hat as it was placed on his or her head.
The meal was a delicious feast that magically appeared upon the tables. The whole experience so far had been quite overwhelming for Annie and she began to wonder if she had really just dreamt every moment since McGonagall had first approached her and soon she would wake up.
After the feast McGonagall showed Annie to her classroom. It had bare stone walls with a black board up the front. There were rows of desks with inkwells in them, reminiscent of a nineteenth century classroom. McGonagall led Annie to her new office through a door leading off the classroom. It was also plain, awaiting her personal touch. Finally, McGonagall led her through another door and into a room, which housed a bed, a wardrobe and an adjoining bathroom.
Annie spent the next few hours preparing her lessons for the following day. The timetable she had been left by McGonagall indicated that she had third years for her first session, followed by a free period and finally seventh years in the afternoon.
Annie stood nervously at the front of the classroom the following morning, awaiting the arrival of her first class. McGonagall had already talked to her earlier about the house point system as a way of rewarding or punishing students, and she was also allowed to send students to McGonagall’s office if she had any major problems. Still, Annie had never taught thirteen-year-olds before, let alone thirteen-year-old wizards.
As the students milled into the classroom and found their seats, Annie called the class to order.
“Good morning class,” Annie smiled, “Welcome to Muggle Studies. You are all here today because you have chosen to do Muggle Studies as an elective. Today we will be discussing what you already know about Muggles. Are there any Muggleborns in the room?”
Not a single hand rose into the air.
“So you are all new to the world of Muggles. Who can tell me what you already know?”
Several students raised their hand. Annie pointed to a girl with blonde plaits.
“Well they don’t use magic,” the girl said sheepishly.
Several other students laughed.
“Perfectly true. Muggles don’t use magic. So what do Muggles use instead of magic?”
Annie pointed to a boy with brown hair and freckles.
“Well my friend is a Muggleborn and he said that instead of using the floo to contact people, they use something called the ‘hello phone’.”
“Well done, Muggles communicate with each other using a device called the telephone. We will be studying methods of Muggle communication later this year.”
After a bit more discussion, Annie told the students that she had set up several common Muggle objects around the room and that they may go study them. She asked the students to take notes on the various objects and try to predict what they are all used for.
At the end of the lesson they discussed their predictions, the funniest one being Toby’s prediction that a tennis racquet was something used for serving food.
As the students filed out of the classroom at the end of the lesson, Annie felt quite pleased at how her first lesson had gone. Everyone had seemed genuinely interested in learning about a Muggle’s way of life.
As the year progressed, Annie’s confidence grew in the classroom. Students were always intrigued by her lessons, though every now and then a student would misbehave. She was unfortunate enough to receive a Mudslinger hex to the back from a fourth year Slytherin boy one day whilst walking down the corridor. Needless to say McGonagall was furious and the boy received a month’s worth of detentions scrubbing Annie’s classroom by hand. Luckily this was the worst that Annie received.
At times Annie felt inadequate that she was unable to perform magic, but she was able to get by with a little help from the teachers, and sometimes even the students.
At the end of the year Annie was pleased to find that most of her OWL and NEWT students achieved satisfactory results on all of their tests.
On the last day of term, McGonagall approached Annie.
“So, Miss Parker, have you given any thought to returning to Hogwarts next year?”
“If you’ll have me,” Annie smiled.
Annie boarded the Hogwarts Express with a huge smile on her face, this time last year she would never have suspected she would be teaching at a school for witches and wizards.
“I guess even teachers learn something new everyday,” she thought, helping herself to a Cauldron Cake from the food trolley.