Bad Teacher! How Silvanus Kettleburn was the worst Hogwarts Teacher on record


The worst teacher to teach at Hogwarts was not Umbridge, or maybe Snape. But rather a Professor before Harry Potter’s time.

When you think of bad Hogwarts teachers, the first name to pop to mind might be Professor Quirinus Quirrell. For attempting to restore Lord Voldemort to power at Hogwarts. Or maybe Gilderoy Lockhart for being a fraud. However, officially, the worst teacher on record is neither of these; and it isn’t Severus Snape or Dolores Umbridge either.

The title of official worst teacher goes to a Professor of Care for Magical Creatures Silvanus Kettleburn, who was suspended, as the Tales of Beedle the Bard notes, at least 62 times throughout his career.

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This record, as JK Rowling notes, is still in place. What Kettleburn’s other enormous amount of offenses entailed is not clear. However, it seems he was something of a rogue, always getting into trouble.

Kettleburn’s most dramatic (literally!) offense took place at a Hogwarts theatre production around Christmas based on the Wizard Folktale ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’. This was a tale of adventurers defeating their inner fears and gaining access to the mystic ‘Fountain of Fair Fortune’ which provides for lifelong good luck.

Kettleburn was instructed, as part of his duties, to ensure that there was a ‘Worm’ for this production.  The ‘Worm’ is the key enemy the adventurers have to bypass in the tale.  Kettleburn neglected to tell the production team one thing though, that his ‘Worm’ was really an Ashwinder. These creatures are, according to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, an ‘XXX’ on the Ministry of Magic index. This means that it took a skilled wizard to deal with them.

The Ashwinder doesn’t sound too bad, except it was sprung on Hogwarts as a surprise and the school was full of children who were certainly not equipped to take on dangerous magical creatures! What happened next was the real problem though.

The Ashwinder exploded and, as the Tales documents explain, set the stage on fire. This, of course, panicked the performers and audience and created absolute mayhem. It is true, however, that the disaster wasn’t all Kettleburn’s fault.

A grudge over apparent infidelity between some of the performers had caused an impromptu duel. However, Kettleburn’s Ashwinder added fire to a situation that could have otherwise been resolved more easily.

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Injuries of the night included the head of the production Professor Beery, who was hit with a spell that deformed his head for a considerable period.  The fire potentially endangered hundreds of lives and many were sent to the hospital. It was through no thanks to Kettleburn, that the fire was stopped, and eventually, Hogwarts recovered.

Kettleburn’s recklessness, something he was famous for according to JK Rowling, caused a disaster. If one compares this with Hagrid, there is a distinct difference. The minute a student was injured under Hagrid’s care, he immediately sought help and accepted the responsibility, as can be seen in the example of Malfoy and the incident with Buckbeak.

Despite Kettleburn’s record of bad behavior, he had a considerable tenure as Professor of Care for Magical Creatures and held the post from at least Armando Dippet’s reign up until 1993 when he retired and was succeeded by Hagrid. Somehow Kettleburn managed to avoid being fired every single time.

Hagrid, although bumbling, was very much a passionate Professor of Care for Magical Creatures and Dumbledore could not have chosen a better successor to Kettleburn. Hagrid might not have had the academic brilliance of Professor Slughorn or the discipline of Professor McGonagall, but he cared for the creatures more than anyone.

It is true that Kettleburn was not all bad, it seems he was a passionate teacher and certainly not someone who enjoyed Hogwarts students suffering as Umbridge and to some degree Snape. Indeed, as JK Rowling points out Kettleburn was ‘lovable’ in some aspects. Nonetheless, Kettleburn’s track record showed an inability to change his ways at least in any short-term capability.

Kettleburn never received any final official punishment but his fast-paced life certainly did catch up with him. No doubt because of the dangerous creatures Kettleburn associated with he eventually lost many of his limbs. Indeed JK Rowling notes that Kettleburn frequently got his “limbs” burnt off by “dragons” he “visited”.

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According to Dumbledore’s commentary in the Tales of Beedle The Bard, this is one possibility for why Kettleburn became a reformed character.  There is also the chance that Kettleburn simply just mellowed with age. However, one thing is certainly true, that had Kettleburn had control over an “XXXXX” creature such as the Acromantula Aragog, there would have been complete chaos!