As the author of the Harry Potter novels, J.K. Rowling is responsible for the creation of one of literature’s most famous schools. Has Rowling herself ever been a teacher?
J.K. Rowling was a teacher. Following the loss of her mother, she responded to an advertisement to teach English as a foreign language in Portugal. She wrote by day and taught at night while in Portugal but the breakdown of her marriage led to her returning to the UK in 1993.
For more on J.K. Rowling’s time as a teacher, read on.
French and English
Languages have always been one of J.K. Rowling’s passions. Between the ages of 16 and 18, she chose to study English, French, and German in school and achieved two As and a B in these subjects.
Her goal was to study languages at Oxford but, despite her results being strong enough for consideration, she was not accepted past the university’s entrance exam.
Rowling instead attended the University of Exeter, initially to study French and Classics but abandoned Classics after her laid back attitude to academic life saw her failing to register for an exam.
After spending a year abroad in Paris as an exchange student, teaching in a French school, Rowling returned to the UK and graduated with a degree in French.
She worked some short-term jobs, including working for Amnesty International as a bilingual secretary and researcher in London. She started writing during her time off work, and, during a train journey from Manchester to London, first conceived the basic concept of Harry Potter.
Six months later, at the end of 1990, Rowling’s mother, Anne, passed away following a lengthy illness. Rowling’s life quickly declined, leading to the breakup of her relationship and living in a hotel.
Portugal and Beyond
Rowling responded to an advertisement in the “Guardian” newspaper, searching for people to teach English as a foreign language in Portugal. She saw an opportunity for a fresh start and applied, moving to Porto and living in a flat with Jill Prewett, also English, and Aine Kiely from Ireland.
At night, Rowling taught at the Encounter English School and, by day, she wrote the first draft of what would become “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in local cafes.
Rowling met Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes at a bar and the two began a passionate but tumultuous relationship. An incident at a cafe across the road from the school where she worked saw Arantes shoving Rowling and the severity of his outburst led to the police being called.
She became pregnant but miscarried; the tragedy brought them closer together and led to Arantes proposing to Rowling, with them marrying on October 16, 1992.
She fell pregnant again but their relationship didn’t improve, with Rowling increasingly concerned when the constant stress led to her losing weight rather than gaining it during her pregnancy.
During another incident on November 17, 1993, Arantes slapped Rowling with great force (which he unapologetically admitted to) and threw her out of their home without their infant daughter, Jessica. Rowling returned with a police officer and Jessica was handed over by Arantes.
A couple of weeks later, she boarded a plane back to the UK, carrying Jessica and three early chapters of the first Harry Potter novel.
A difficult period followed, with Rowling struggling to make ends meet as a single mother. She signed up to earn a post-graduate certificate of education in modern languages, in the hope of turning her teaching experience into a career with a future.
Rowling graduated from the course in June 1996 but was informed that the first Harry Potter novel was going to be published. The book was an unprecedented success and Rowling left teaching behind, though she did provide the world with many memorable teachers at Hogwarts, perhaps the most famous school in all of fiction.