Glenbow student knows Harry Potter's secret

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 30, 2002

Last week I met a Cochrane student who knows Harry Potter's secret. How I learned about her insight itself points to the secret of great education in our community: the right combination of enthusiastic kids, imaginative teachers, and a system that encourages innovation and excellence in learning.

On Oct. 23 I was privileged to be one of a group of writers invited to conduct workshops at Glenbow Elementary School's "Write On," a school-wide conference on writing.

Privileged? How else can one describe being on the same program with writers like Alberta children's author Sigmund Brouwer and "Canada's Cajun Queen," singer/songwriter Crystal Plamondon?

For my humble contribution to this stellar event, I brought my magic picture frame. The 14 Grade 1 to 4 students with whom I worked were to imagine a scene in the otherwise-empty frame and then create a story around it.

And images and stories they did indeed create! One of the kids saw himself flying an airplane through the sky. Another saw a cuddly cat on a purple pillow by a warm fire, while friend dog was left barking outside, its moist nose pressed enviously against the windowpane.

It wasn't long, however, before one student started playing with a Harry Potter theme. He saw himself standing on a broomstick flying through the air in a game of Quidditch. He scores! He falls to the ground! He's saved! His team wins!

I asked the kids how many of them had seen the movie based on JK Rowling's story. They all raised their hands excitedly.

It looked like we were on a roll, so I asked them if they remembered the scene in the railway station where Harry was trying to find platform 9 3/4 for the train to Hogwarts School. "Yes," they beamed.

"How did Harry finally get to platform 9 3/4?" I asked.

"He walked through the brick wall," a student answered.

"Could you walk through a brick wall?" I asked.

"No...o...o!" all the students answered as one.

"Well then, how did Harry go through the wall?"

"He had magic," one student answered.

"He was a wizard," said another.

These were pretty good answers for anyone who had read the book or seen the movie.

But then a Grade 3 or 4 girl raised her hand and gave me an answer that took my breath away:

"Harry Potter could walk through the brick wall," she said, "because a writer had a great imagination!"

"Wow!" I said to myself. This student was not satisfied with merely being a spectator. She was taking ownership of the creative process itself. Someday maybe she will be in front of a group of students talking about all the books she has written.

Out of the way, JK!

* * * *

Next week I plan to return to the theme of loyalty introduced in last week's column. To kick it off, have a look at the following from coffee companions Perry Wager and Lorraine Champagne, who sent me their summaries of an evening's family discussion on the topic:

LOYALTY IS FORGED in the furnace of survival, tempered with volatile oils of passion, and tooled into an invisible force that has allowed families, communities and nations to overcome unimaginable adversity and evil to live happily ever after. What of those who are loyal to what we believe to be evil? I believe even in today's "throw away society" loyalty does exist, usually to our elation, but sometimes to our horror.

—Perry Wager, Calgary

LOYALTY CAN MEAN different things to different people. I have loyal friends and family and believe I am loyal to them. Does it exist in today's society? I believe so, but in a much more subtle manner and, unfortunately, at times accompanied by a "what's in it for me" attitude. Perhaps another value as important as loyalty is integrity. Lack of integrity may be the reason you do not stand loyally by others when you know they are in trouble.

—Lorraine Champagne, Cochrane

ANY OTHER thoughts on loyalty out there?

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page