Updated: May 28, 2018
Educated Minds talks to Ms Bouroubi, English Teacher and KS3 Co-ordinator at the British School Bahrain, about what she was like as a teenager and what message she would give to her younger self.
What were you like at school?
I was...an interesting character. I was a bit of a goth, but I was also (what the Americans would call) a jock. I played for a lot of the sports teams, and I used to play hockey at County level.
I was a bit of a middle of the road student, except for English and P.E. I guess I just loved English, so it's really no surprise that I'm an English teacher.
Who would you say was your biggest influence at school?
I have to say it was my mum because she just wanted me to be successful at any cost. She really supported my education financially: she would pay for any extra tuition if I needed it; if I needed any books, she would pay for them; she would take me where I needed to go- anything- to make sure I was academically successful. She also came to all of my sports games, whether it was netball, basketball, rounders, cross country running, or hockey, she was always there.
In regards to teachers having an influence on me, I would say there were two. I had my form tutor, Ms Nichols, who I am still in contact with now. She was Head of R.E. She had our form group for five years, and she was desperately overprotective of us, but would also guide us ethically as well. If she felt that we were doing, or even expressing opinions that were bordering on the unethical, she was always there to guide us back. Then there was my English teacher, who was just so inspirational, so amazing, so supportive. I've even emailed him to just say thank you so much for being an amazing influence on me. I thought he was just phenomenal!
What was it like growing up as a young British Muslim?
I was about thirteen when September 11th happened. It was a really significant and traumatic event in both my life, those people affected directly by the attacks, and really, to be honest, a lot of us living in the West- not just Muslims- everyone. As a Muslim teenager still trying to figure myself out and trying to figure my place in the world, it was extremely significant in shaping the way I behaved, or tried to behave, growing up.
I was wearing a head scarf from the time I was eleven. I knew I looked different, but people pretty much treated me the same. But then September the 11th happened and I really did feel that all eyes were on me. The issue we had was the media basically holding or asking for answers from people who had not been at the attacks, or committed the attacks. The Muslim community- British Muslim community- felt almost responsible, even though we had nothing to do with those horrendous attacks. What it meant as a teenager was that we were being told things by both the media, but also by the Muslim community at large, that it was up to us and we were responsible to make sure that we presented Islam in a good and positive light. To be honest, when your thirteen/fourteen years old, that is a really, really big ask. Therefore, some of my teenage years I spent feeling repressed. Not repressed or oppressed by anybody else outside but actually by my own expectations. I felt that I had to speak a certain way, behave in a certain way because I constantly felt I was representing Islam, so therefore I had to be on my best behaviour at all times. As a teenager, sometimes you do not want to be on your best behaviour, so it's a hard way to live long term.
I grew up in Cambridge. Cambridge is awesome! It's multicultural with people from all over the world there. So to be honest, my experiences in Cambridge were overwhelmingly positive. I very rarely had comments made about me in the street. But then I'm from a mixed-race background where my skin is also very fair and I speak a certain way, so I feel that I may not have had the brunt that some other people were experiencing in other places in the UK.
What was it like growing up in a mixed-race family?
It was fine. My mum raised us almost mimicking my dad's culture. But what was wonderful was that because we had both cultures in the house, I feel we grew up to be critical thinkers. Although we grew up believing in our faith, it meant we weren't hostile to or worried about outside influences. For instance, we could have a conversation over the dinner table about atheism and Darwin's theory of evolution; we could talk about time travel, etc. I feel that because we had such open communication, there wasn't that stigma on thinking outside the box. I felt very, very blessed.
What does success look like to you?
I think success is about doing your best in anything that you choose to do. So if you're a teacher, or you're someone who works in Tesco; if you're someone who puts up signs, or if you're an interpreter, doing it at the best of your ability makes you successful.
What message would you give to your sixteen-year-old self?
(laughs) I would tell my sixteen-year-old self that working hard is never a waste. That if I want to be successful in the future, I must be ready, or should be ready, to bloody my knuckles, sweat, and just be ready to work, work, and work. I wish my sixteen-year-old self would have known that. I wouldn't have wasted so much time (laughs).