41

“I was safer at Hogwarts. I think I was a good teacher —”
You were the best —”
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35, "King's Cross")

That seems like a completely inappropriate statement, coming out of Harry, seeing how:

  • Harry never took a single class with Dumbledore (his "instruction" on How-To-Get-Rid-Of-Voldemort wasn't really "teaching").
    • Anyone thinking otherwise, please reflect on how Harry thought about what Dumbledore "taught" him (answer: nothing useful) during the hunt for the Horcruxes in DH.
  • Harry never discussed Dumbledore as a teacher with anyone who was taught by him.
  • Harry had truly excellent teachers. Lockhart, Lupin, McGonagall. So it's not like he couldn't imagine Dumbledore being not best no matter how bad he was.

What was the basis for Harry to claim this?

  • 13
    re point #1 - He tutored Harry. That surely counts as teaching. – Valorum Jun 25 '15 at 23:58
  • 27
    +1 for strikethrough of "Lockhart" – Often Right Jun 26 '15 at 0:03
  • 9
    @N_Soong - He learned a lot from Lockhart. His lessons about the price of fame were especially useful. – Valorum Jun 26 '15 at 0:09
  • 9
    Harry probably meant the Richard Harris version. He was all about peace, love, and happiness. The second Dumbledore was an angry nutter. – Major Stackings Jun 26 '15 at 0:21
  • 6
    id say dumbledore taught by actions, being a strong figure to look up too, a role model. sometimes role models can be the best influence on our lives. – user36770 Jun 26 '15 at 0:21
28

I think Harry himself explains why Dumbledore is the greatest teacher at the end of Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone (emphasis is my own):

"No, it isn't," said Harry thoughtfully. "He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It's almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could...."

Harry potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - US Paperback Edition - Page 302

This is the most perfect description we see (in the books) of Dumbledore as a teacher, and it holds true for all great teachers: They teach you what you need to know, let you try your strengths, and let you learn from your mistakes, without holding said mistakes against you. For instance, in The Half-Blood Prince, Harry (unknowingly) uses dark magic, in the form of the Sectumsempra curse, against Malfoy. He and Dumbledore briefly discuss the incident, but Dumbledore never scolds or lectures Harry on the subject, because he knows that Harry realizes that he made a huge mistake, has learned from it, and will never make that same mistake again.

  • 2
    damn you that's a good answer. Great job. – AugustoQ Jun 29 '15 at 22:27
57

First, I think that it's crucial to recognise that Harry is a 17 year old that was in the middle of a war, had just died, and met again with someone very dear to him who he had painfully lost. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that he would be a little extra affectionate towards Dumbledore, and maybe exaggerate a little bit on the whole "best teacher".

But maybe Harry actually had a reason to say that. You see, in seven years Harry went from a little kid who was weak and bullied, had no idea about what had really happened to his parents, and could never hope to be anything special, to becoming... Well, Harry Potter. And while you might (maybe correctly) argue that Dumbledore was not the most important element behind that transformation, you cannot deny that he was an important one, and a very visible one. The kind of element he would cling to, meaning he would be the person Harry would remember as being the key element on the transformation. The way Harry sees it, Dumbledore took him (even if not directly) from not knowing that there was a wizarding world, to not only knowing it, but being an important part of it.

Finally, if you want a full-on "Harry knew what he was saying", well, throughout the series we see Dumbledore giving Harry advice, and teachings that go beyond the classroom (the kind of thing a private school would be falsely advertising) like not to

"Dwell in dreams and forget to live"

or that

"It is our choices[...] that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Also, in the "Voldemort Classes" Harry does learn about Voldemort, even if little. He learns about Voldemort's history, who he is, what he values, what "hurts him". Things that might seem like we all knew them before hand, but I think we all learned a lot about Voldemort on those classes, and so did Harry. Many strategists will agree that a key point in war is knowing your enemy.

Now, I think anyone of those could explain why Harry would refer to Dumbledore as "the best teacher", but in my opinion (not that it matters), it's a little bit of all of them that lead Harry to make that choice of words.

  • 1
    @WadCheber Thanks =D – AugustoQ Jun 26 '15 at 1:41
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    Don't forget Dumbledore was also incredibly skilled and clever. Subject knowledge is a key part of the teacher role and he was surely "the best" in that aspect. – ThruGog Jun 26 '15 at 5:35
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    Nitpick - And while you might (correctly) argue that Dumbledore was not the most important element behind that transformation - I'd argue that, hands down, Dumbledore was THE most important part. Without his constant meddling - starting from the enabling protection only family can give (Dursleys) through guiding him through the key parts to win the final battle (up to, and including, self sacrifice) - Harry wouldn't have made it through his childhood... He taught Harry to not fear, believe and never give up... Best teacher and most important/influential, hands down IMO. – WernerCD Jun 26 '15 at 13:48
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    @WernerCD i should have put "maybe correctly", because there are actually too many factors behind it. His friends, the other professors, Sirius. Imo, Dumbledore is top in the list, but I wouldn't go as far as saying the most important without some further "study" first. – AugustoQ Jun 26 '15 at 13:57
  • 1
    @AugustoQ I'd agree that "Most Important" or "Best" could be a topic of discussion at the least. Opinion based top to bottom (Although, my opinion is obviously right :) I should have highlighted the "correctly" part and done a bit more to emphasize the opinion parts - yours (that he's "correctly" not the most important) and Harry's (that he's the best teacher). You have reasons for believing Dumbledore isn't... Harry has reasons for believing Dumbledore is. – WernerCD Jun 26 '15 at 14:15
22

Dumbledore actually taught Harry a great deal, not just the usual "importance of friendship" rubbish but genuine hard facts;

  • How to use a pensieve
  • That memory can be edited (Slughorn)
  • How the "love protection" spell works
  • That magic can be detected indirectly
  • The lifecycle of the phoenix
  • Tom Riddle's personal history
  • Some Hogwarts history about Salazar Slytherin
  • What the Mirror of Erised does
  • A whole bunch of stuff about wizard politics

That being said, Harry is more likely referring to the intangible lessons he got from Dumbledore's own actions;

  • That a leader leads from the front
  • The importance of surrounding yourself with a circle of friends
  • That love conquers evil (quite literally)

etc

  • 6
    He also trusted Harry with responsibility, at varying levels throughout the series. Showing that trust, and preparing him for greater responsibility was, IMO, key. If not for Dumbledore, would Harry and company been able to bear the burden of hunting the Horcuxes? Without Dumbledore's lessons, would he have made the same choices in the woods at the end? I don't think so. – user31178 Jun 26 '15 at 8:20
  • 1
    Snape (in his pre-Princes-tale persona) taught Harry a whole awful lot more than that - by a factor of 1000. I think we can all agree that this wouldn't make Harry call him "best teacher" or ever "Good teacher" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 26 '15 at 16:46
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    @DVK Did Snape teach Harry more than Occlumency? Harry didn't seem to do well in Snape's classes. Instruction doesn't equal learning. Snape's methods weren't pedagogically sound, and seemed to focus on rote memorization, humiliation of poor performers, and little engagement with his students. Very typical of universities where experts in fields are hired because they know the material, but they have no idea how to teach it well. In such cases, the learning is upon the student and their study habits and the instructor can be largely interchangeable. Dumbledore, however, wasn't interchangeable. – user31178 Jun 27 '15 at 19:52
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    @CreationEdge - 1 word: Bezoar. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 29 '15 at 15:16
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    @CreationEdge - it wasn't Slughorn's teaching. It was the Half-Blood Prince's instructions in the textbook... ergo... Snape :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 29 '15 at 18:05
17

Harry is having a conversation with a man that he admires and misses greatly.

Harry saying that Dumbledore "was the best" is a statement of admiration, and doesn't imply any true evaluation of Dumbledore's abilities.

  • 3
    Not only having a conversation with someone he admires and dearly considers, he is also in a very emotional state, considering the battle of Hogwarts, his death, his meeting people who were very important to him, and the fact that Dumbledore's death had been very painful to him. – AugustoQ Jun 26 '15 at 2:06
5

The basis is that of all the people that Harry knew, that happen to be teachers, he considered Dumbledore to be the best person.

While the way Dumbledore spoke implied he was speaking purely about his instructional quality, we don't need to assume Harry's response was meant to be a remark on the same.

It's common, in my experience, for people to refer to teachers as good or great because of their impact on the lives of their students, rather than purely academic criteria. In this case, we know Dumbledore had a huge impact on not only Harry, but many of the students at Howarts. He cared deeply for their safety and well-being, to the point of making one of his oldest friends kill him so that one of their wayward students wouldn't have to suffer the consequences of murder.

There are many measures of quality that Harry could have used to determine Dumbledore was the best teacher. The level academic instruction to Harry or the other students was not necessarily anywhere near the top of the list.

(Also, how many other teachers were on Chocolate Frog cards?)

-3

Harry believes Dumbledore is "the best" (not necessarily restricted to teacher) because that is the image that Dumbledore creates for himself. Harry's first contact with the wizarding world is Hagrid, who tells him about his parents and offers him an escape from the Dursleys. Hagrid calls Dumbledore "The Greatest Wizard Who Ever Lived". Harry meats Ron on the train, his first friend of the same age. Ron and the Weasleys also think highly of Dumbledore. At school Dumbledore projects the benevolent all-knowing grandfatherly figure, and that is the way they remember him after school. He also defeated Grindelwald, and as a result got an Order of Merlin and influential positions at the Wizengamot and the ICW.

So in short, many people think highly of Dumbledore and tell Harry. He seems to know the answers to everything, even if he doesn't share them.

Unfortunately, looking at the facts shows that this respect is not justified, in effect Harry (like many others) is brainwashed by Dumbledore.


To those who downvoted this answers, doesn't it contain enough to support it, or do you just not like the conclusion? If you don't like the conclusion, can you point out Dumbledore's actions that contradict this conclusion?

Dumbledore is never Harry's teacher (the "lessons" about Voldemort are not lessons, they can be called background information for Harry's mission, although stretching them over the year was a waste of time). So the statement is more likely a reflection of Harry's respect and admiration for Dumbledore, but that is the result of Dumbledore's manipulations. Unfortunately Harry never learned to see behind Dumbledore's mask and recognized that he has been Dumbledore's pawn his whole life, so he names an innocent child Albus Severus.

At the end of the first book, Harry suspects that Dumbledore knows most of what happens at Hogwarts and wanted them to go after the stone. This might well be true, but it doesn't make Dumbledore a good teacher. On the contrary, it means that he willfully endangered the students.

It's one thing to let children explore and learn from their experience in a safe setting and something completely different to throw them into mortal danger and see what happens. Voldemort would have escaped with the stone if he had stunned Harry before trying to get the stone. Harry could have died on many occasions. And even the prophecy wouldn't protect him from being killed by Voldemort.


Dumbledore is a failure as a headmaster. Half the staff don't teach and/or abuses the students.

  • Filch openly speaks about torturing students.
  • History is tought by a ghost who puts everybody to sleep.
  • Muggle studies is more than a century outdated.
  • Defense has mostly poor teachers.
  • Trelawni is a fraud, or maybe Divination just isn't teachable. Every year she predicts the death of a student, not just in Harry's year. Dumbledore himself wanted to get rid of the subject, it seems he just hired her to keep her out of Voldemort's reach.
  • Hagrid may be a nice guy, but that doesn't make him a teacher.
  • And of course Snape, who both doesn't teach and abuses students. Not just Harry, but also Neville, Hermione and basically everybody not from Slytherin. This one of the greater failures against the "greater good". Potions is needed at least for Aurors, Healers, and of course future Potions Masters. Snape's unwillingness to teach reduces the number of Aurors and Healers, at least those outside Slytherin, when Dumbledore strongly suspects that Voldemort will return and a new war may start.
  • Dumbledore allows the Slytherins to abuse other students. This shows them that it is perfectly acceptable to bully other people, and later torture and kill them.
  • Dumbledore ignores the safety of his students.
    • The stone is kept in the school as bait for Voldemort.
    • A Cerberus is behind a simple locked door that any first year can open.
    • A troll is reported in the dungeons, and Dumbledore sends half the school into the dungeons.
    • As punishment for being awake at night and missing their sleep, four students are sent out, missing another night of sleep. And they have to go to the forbidden forest, which is always dangerous, but now they shall search alone for something strong enough and willing to kill unicorns.
    • Something petrifies students. What does Dumbledore? He ignores the threat and hopes for the best.
    • While Draco tries to kill Dumbledore, two students almost die (Katie Bell and Ron). Yet for Dumbledore it is more important whether Draco will try to kill him in the and than whether other students are killed in Draco's attempts.
  • In general, Dumbledore has other priorities for the school, and the safety and education of the students are second to that.


Dumbledore is a failure as part of the government. He is the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, the legislative and judicial body of the government. In addition, many people listen to his suggestions, which gives him additional influence. Yet most Death Eaters remained free and in power, ready to support Voldemort again. On the other hand, he fails to make sure Sirius gets a trial. Even if everybody believed he was guilty, and even if everybody was drunk for a month to celebrate the defeat of Voldemort, Sirius should have been questioned with Veritaserum, just to know what else he did and what other Death Eaters he might know. As this was done with Karkaroff, it's not like nobody thought about that.


Dumbledore is a failure regarding Harry. Most of Harry's suffering can be traced back to Dumbledore. Just from the first chapter of the first book:

  • Dumbledore doesn't even have the decency to ring the bell end tell Petunia in person that her sister is dead and she is expected to raise Harry. Instead he placed a child on the doorstep like a bottle of milk on a cold November night. One might argue that he knew that Petunia wouldn't want Harry, which brings us to the next point.
  • In OOTP Dumbledore admitted that he knew that he was "condemning Harry to ten dark and difficult years" (OOTP chapter 37) even before he placed him there.

    Well – not quite whole. You had suffered. I knew you would when I left you on your aunt and uncle’s doorstep. I knew I was condemning you to ten dark and difficult years.

    Mrs. Figg was watching Harry, so she confirmed to Dumbledore that Harry was abused, as Dumbledore knew he would. As we can see from the Dursleys' reaction to the letter addressed to the cupboard under the stairs, they immediately moved Harry to the second bedroom. So a few letters to the Dursleys (We are watching you, Harry doesn't get enough to eat, he is mistreated) would have improved Harry's living conditions.

  • Dumbledore says that he would not remove Harry's scar (Voldemort's horcrux) even if he could. So Dumbledore wants Harry to die even if there was a way to remove the horcrux. So as Dumbledore knew about Harry's living conditions and could easily have improved them, but didn't, we have to assume that it was his intention that the Dursleys treated Harry the way they did. He forces Harry to go back every summer, then generously allows Harry to leave early, and Harry is grateful for the escape. On several occasions Dumbledore claims that he wanted Harry to have a childhood (end of book 1 and 5), but he knew that Harry would be treated worse than Tom Riddle at the orphanage.

Harry is raised to unconsciously accept the blame for everything that goes wrong, to consider himself and his life worthless, so that he would be willing to die when Dumbledore says so. Harry is raised "as a pig for slaughter" (DH) as Snape notes, and Dumbledore doesn't deny but tries to distract.

There are hints that Dumbledore might have suspected that Harry might survive being killed by Voldemort after Voldemort used Harry's blood. But that was obviously not something he knew when he placed Harry with the Durlsleys, so his plan that Harry should be abused and willing to die predates that.

For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore's eyes. GOF


Dumbledore is a failure regarding the war against Voldemort. He has a prophecy that "The one with the power to vanquish approaches ... and either must die at the hand of the other".

This can mean that Harry is one of many who can defeat Voldemort, or more likely that Harry is the only one, because the prophecy doesn't say that Voldemort won't die before he kills Harry and then someone else will be successful, it talks about the power he knows not, so while the outcome isn't sure, Harry should at least have some advantage. And yet, Dumbledore's plan is that Harry should be the one who dies and not Voldemort. And that was his plan from the moment he decided to place Harry with the Dursleys, even before he saw Harry or the scar.

In the end, Harry doesn't win because of Dumbledore's plans, he wins despite them. According to Dumbledore's plan, the Elder Wand would either have no master, or Snape. As Snape was killed by Voldemort, in their final confrontation the master of the wand would be either nobody or Voldemort, in both cases Voldemort would win.

Harry doesn't die by Voldemort's hand, Voldemort doesn't die by Harry's hand, he dies from his own curse. So the prophecy is either wrong, or it was fulfilled when Voldemort met baby Harry. After that, only one of them could live, and Voldemort was more or less dead for a decade after that encounter.


Of course Dumbledore is not stupid, so he behaved in accordance with his goals. It's just that his goals were not in the interest of Harry, the school or the wizarding world.


But Dumbledore is very good at manipulating others and create the wise and caring image of himself. He is the only worthy Slytherin in the whole series. Harry was supposed to be cunning enough for Slytherin, but it seems being sorted into Gryffindor surgically removed all his cunning. Draco is just plain stupid. Even Voldemort, the supposed heir of Slytherin, is stupid. He hit Harry two times with the killing course and Harry is still not dead. After he used the killing curse two time on Harry and Harry still lives, Voldemort tries it again even after Harry explains to him why it would not work (the classical villain mistake that gives the good guy the time to escape).

So to conclude, Harry's admiration for Dumbledore is not justified.

  • 3
    "Dumbledore is a failure as part of the government." Since when was Dumbledore part of the Ministry of Magic? – F1Krazy Jun 26 '18 at 10:10
  • 1
    "Voldemort is stupid because he fails to kill Harry with a spell that has killed every other person it has ever hit"? That's not only ludicrous reasoning, it's also completely irrelevant to the question. – F1Krazy Jun 26 '18 at 10:21
  • 1
    @F1Krazy Dumbledore is Chief Warlock of the WIzengamot, the legal and judicial branch of the government. He is also respected by many people, that means he has a lot of informal influence. – Ralf Jun 26 '18 at 15:56
  • 1
    @F1Krazy Voldemort is not stupid because he used that spell the first time but because he uses the same spell in his third attempt, even after it didn't work the on the previous occasions, and after Harry explains to him why it wouldn't work (the classical villain mistake on Harry's part). – Ralf Jun 27 '18 at 8:41
  • 2
    My concern is that this answer doesn't (really) answer the question asked. You're just using it as a vehicle to post your opinions about Dumbledore. – Valorum Jun 28 '18 at 17:33

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