HPEF presents Infinitus 2010, a Harry Potter conference            TEXT  MENU

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July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Teaching Harry, Exploring Difference
Becky Herr Stephenson and Catherine Belcher

Our presentation explores teaching Harry Potter in K-12 classrooms. This session would serve as a continuation of last year's very popular workshop: Teaching and Learning with Harry Potter. It would also provide an opportunity for us to present on the progress of our co-authored book, Teaching Harry: Teachers, Harry Potter and the Power of Imagination in Multicultural Classrooms, which will be published later this year. The book and this related workshop explore the experiences of diverse teachers reading popular literature in multicultural classrooms.

The proposed workshop will be highly participatory and structured around an activity that teachers can adapt for their classrooms. Like last year's session, which centered on a small group activity in which participants considered the ethical implications of Sorting students into houses, this year's workshop will encourage participants to engage with one of the important themes of the Potter series—difference. Participants will consider the various representations of difference in the books, specifically considering the ways in which difference in family background or magical/academic ability is painted as a strength or weakness for certain characters or situations. For example, Neville's struggles with magic often set him apart from the other characters. In today's Muggle society he would likely be labeled “remedial,” yet in the end, his complex journey forces us to question such presuppositions. Luna's eccentricities also clearly set her apart from other students, yet her story sheds light on the intricacies and value of friendship, family, perseverance and alternate worldviews.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, this workshop will offer opportunities for participants to draw connections between the cultural and ethical themes of the books and possibilities for real-life application in K-12 education. Guiding questions include: How do Neville, Luna, and other characters help us understand our own treatment of others who are perceived as “different” in our classrooms and schools? How can teachers guide and support students in exploring difference in safe and productive ways in today's classroom settings? These and other questions will be explored through an interactive small group activity.

The session will conclude with a group discussion on reflexive and joyous teaching, focusing on how educators use their own differences as strengths in their practice (or, conversely, how they deal with the challenge of being different). Our goal is for all participants to come away with new, energizing ideas about teaching, and, in particular, about teaching Harry.

Becky Herr Stephenson is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine, where she is currently conducting research about online reading and writing. In addition to this research, she and Catherine are co-authoring the book Teaching Harry: Teachers, Harry Potter and the Power of Imagination in Multicultural Classrooms. While she would never be found using the Imperius Curse, she strongly encourages you to visit the project's website, www.teachingharry.com.

Catherine Belcher is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. She teaches and writes about urban teaching, Latino educational history, and the role of culture in the classroom. She has presented on the use of Potter in educational spaces at several conferences, and is currently co-authoring Teaching Harry with Becky. She lives in LA with her husband Jeff and 10-year-old daughter Aitana (alternately a Ravenclaw and Gryffindor), who really wishes we could just forget the freeway and apparate to school.
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