I’m waiting inside the school. After leaving high school last year, I’m back to interview my English teacher. The bell rings and students come downstairs and take their places, inside or outside. When she comes down, with all her stuff still in her arms, we greet each other and walk towards the staff room. We decide to sit outside, as the weather is great. While we start the interview, the sun shines brightly, and other teachers join us outside.
Catuja Buruma is an English teacher at Mondial College. I’d like to know about her career as a teacher and about her love for literature. She tells me about what she loves and doesn’t love about teaching, what she likes to read and even if she’d like to write.
We start talking about her day this time of the schoolyear. She tells me that it has not been a busy day. She had only had two lessons, but she had a lot to prepare for the upcoming lessens. “We have presentations tonight and we have parent teacher nights,” She starts laughing. “so, I’ve been away for every night this week.” She also tells me what she thinks is the most frustrating about teaching. “When students are not motivated, and you aren’t able to motivate them in any way. Then that’s very challenging, because they drag down the entire class atmosphere by being negative.”
I ask her what she likes the most about being a teacher. Her answer is very determined. “Being with the young people. I think they’re great. Everything about it is great.” This makes me think about her way of teaching. I recognize what she’s saying. Still, when I ask her how she would describe her way of teaching she doesn’t know what to say. “Organized chaos?” She jokes. “How would you describe it?” Different things come to mind, fun, a cosy atmosphere in class, but there’s also a lot of learning. “Good.” She answers. “I think my focus is on the relationship I have with the students. And then the teaching comes when you have a solid foundation to build on. I think that’s it.”
Curious about her experiences as a teacher, I ask her about the funniest moment in class. “That’s difficult there are many funny things happening.” She takes a moment to think. “One time a student tried to prank me. And he used something to create foam, but he put it in his mouth, and he said he wasn’t feeling well. Then two seconds later he was on the ground with a foaming mouth and I really thought he was dying. So, I was really panicked and then he was really scared because he thought his joke had gone terribly wrong. But
What book would you like to read with your classes?
“The Hate U Give. I think it’s a good theme, racism in America.” The Hate U Give is a book by Angie Thomas, which has recently been made into a motion picture! “I think students could learn from it. We can talk about literary aspects, but also about cultural aspects. How things are in America and if they’re the same here or if they recognize stuff in movies, songs or people that they follow online.”
Would you like it if there’d be more time to spend on storytelling and writing in class? How would you spend that time?
“Yes, I would really like that. I think I would really like for students to sort of
Have you always been interested in literature?
“No… Well as a kid I liked books, but in high school I hated it. I hated having to read stuff and I didn’t do it. Just out of not liking it and not wanting to like it. But later on, I think that what I had liked about it when I was very young, came back.”
How did you develop that love?
“I don’t know. I think from my parents, they always read to me. So that felt nice, if you go to bed and people tell you stories, it’s just this cosy moment. And then you start reading by yourself and you’re really proud of yourself for reading it. My parents are very into literature, so they were also very proud of me for reading it. And then it just gave me a good feeling. So that got me interested. And later you can decide on your own books. I think there’s a book for everyone. I don’t believe someone doesn’t like any book at all. You just have to find it.”
What is your favourite genre to read?
“I think African American literature is my favourite genre and if I just want to read a quick book, then horror books or true crime books.”
What is your top 3 favourite books?
“That’s difficult. I think ‘The book of Negroes’ is in there. It’s a slave narrative. Also ‘De
Who is your all-time favourite author?
“Uhm… Then I would say Stephen
What is the last book you’ve read?
“I’ve reread a lot of books for oral exams in my class. But I think for fun, Homegoing, about two sisters from Africa. One is a slave and the other is married to a slave trader.”
What are you currently reading?
What books are still on your to read list?
“I think many of the classics that I still miss. I really want to start reading more Latin American literature. I don’t really have names.”
Books mentioned in this article