Before you begin, there are more spoilers in this piece than Harry had hot dinners at Hogwarts. If you haven’t read all the Harry Potter books, proceed with caution...
We’re sorry to bring this up in his birthday week, but Lockhart was a terrible teacher for many reasons. Remember when he released those Cornish pixies in his classroom and couldn’t even round them up himself? Or when he tried to make a run for it when he was tasked with saving Ginny Weasley from the Chamber of Secrets?
But we reckon that the root of his failings was his dishonesty. He overcompensated for faking his brave deeds by pretending to know about everything – from duelling to Petrified cats – which made him a pretty irritating person to be around, and a very useless teacher. If he’d been honest about his abilities as a wizard – in particular his Defence Against the Dark Arts achievements – he might have made a decent Charms professor. After all, he may have used Memory Charms for dishonest purposes, but he really was rather good at them. There, we’ve been nice. Happy birthday for this weekend, Gilderoy!
Snape might have had hidden depths, but we can’t say we would have necessarily looked forward to a Potions lesson with him. The way he behaved towards Harry was highly unfair, from shaming him for being the Boy Who Lived to making him copy out records featuring Sirius after his recent death. His treatment of Hermione throughout the stories was also extremely unfair – often ignoring or even embarrassing her for her enthusiasm and knowledge. Neville Longbottom fared even worse in Potions lessons. Rather than encouraging Neville, he harangued him for his mistakes; Snape once told Neville he would have to feed his beloved toad Trevor the Shrinking Solution he was brewing in a lesson. And let’s not forget that when Neville was asked by Professor Lupin, ‘What would you say is the thing that frightens you most in the world?’, Neville’s answer was ‘Professor Snape’.
From bullying to Slytherin favouritism, we can’t say Severus Snape was always a shining example of a Hogwarts professor.
Okay, okay, so the Professor Moody who taught Harry wasn’t actually Alastor Moody, so apologies to the real one for this section. But what Harry and his classmates had to deal with during their fourth-year Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons wasn’t always a walk in the Hogwarts grounds. In one lesson containing both Neville Longbottom (whose parents were tortured into insanity by the Cruciatus curse) and Harry Potter (whose parents were killed by Avada Kedavra), Moody decided it would be a good idea to demonstrate these Unforgivable Curses, as well as the Imperius curse, on a spider. It must have been extremely traumatic for both Harry and Neville to witness this, but Moody didn’t seem to care. That being said, we didn’t mind Moody’s insensitivity so much when we got to see ‘Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret...’ Every cloud, eh?
We could probably write a whole article about how Umbridge made a Blast-Ended Skrewt look friendly (in fact we have, here). But what about her teaching, specifically? What made her classes so terrible? Well, we think it’s mostly summed up by the command she used at the beginning of her classes: ‘wands away’. Not only did it make her classes boring and useless, it also put her students in danger at a time when she must have known (or should have known), deep down, that they would need to learn to protect themselves in the coming months and years. Who knows what would have happened if Hermione hadn’t had the initiative to suggest they take matters into their own hands and start Dumbledore’s Army?
You’d think a lesson taught by a ghost would be on the scary rather than the dull side, but History of Magic was one of Harry and Ron’s least enjoyable classes. In fact, it is referred to at one point as ‘the most boring subject ever devised by wizardkind’. Though we’re not sure it’s entirely the subject’s fault. Professor Binns had some pretty good teaching material to work with but seemed incapable of making even goblin rebellions exciting. The story goes that Professor Binns fell asleep in front of the staff-room fire at a grand old age, died, and then got up the next morning to teach, leaving his body behind. He was reported to have a ‘wheezy, droning voice that was almost guaranteed to cause severe drowsiness within ten minutes, five in warm weather.’ It’s a shame he didn’t make more of an effort to keep his students’ attention. Remember when Hermione surprised him by putting up her hand and asking about the Chamber of Secrets? Professor Binns was so surprised by the attention of the class actually being on him, he was desperate to go back to his droning.
Like Lockhart, Sybill Trelawney’s terrible teaching also came from a place of insecurity. It was indeed Trelawney who made the prophecy that resulted in Lily and James Potter’s deaths: ‘...the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...’ But in her Divination lessons, she wasn’t quite so impressive. According to Professor McGonagall, ‘seeing death omens’ was her ‘favourite way of greeting a new class’. She added that none of the students whose deaths she’d predicted had ‘died yet’. We’re not sure pretending that your young students are in mortal peril is a very good teaching method. Plus, for those who believed her predictions – we’re looking at you Lavender and Parvati – it could be very stressful. Nobody wants to hear from their teacher that the thing they are dreading will happen on ‘Friday the sixteenth of October’. It wouldn’t exactly inspire you to finish your homework.