Rikita Tyson
20 Questions with Rikita Tyson, English Teacher

It doesn't take much effort to imagine English teacher Rikita Tyson curled up with a good book and a spot of tea—she certainly can. But you might be surprised by this scholar's life motto, theme song, and unconventional take on Romeo and Juliet. (If you have yet to discuss Shakespeare with her, you're missing out.) Keep reading to learn more about the way she views the world. 

Related: Credit Where It's Due: A Discussion of Shakespearean Comedy with Rikita Tyson

1. What three words best describe Commonwealth? 

Caring, idiosyncratic, thoughtful.

2. What’s your #1 piece of advice for Commonwealth students?

Be curious! This place is so much more fun if you go into your classes assuming there is something interesting to be learned in all of them.

3. What does your ideal afternoon entail? 

A cozy sweater or blanket, a good book, and a mug of tea. Alternatively, sitting and talking with someone I care about (there is also tea involved). 

4. Which word or phrase do you most overuse?

Too many, I’m sure! Ironically, a student once pointed out that I use the word “overmuch” quite a bit. 

5. When and how did you first become interested in literature and writing? 

I can’t remember not being interested in them, honestly! My mother says that I would go around collecting three-syllable words when I was little. I always thought it was pretty magical that words could take you to another place or inside another person’s head.

6. Which of Shakespeare’s works is most underrated? 

Probably Romeo and Juliet, which is the play people most often bad-mouth in public (it’s “just about stupid teenagers,” apparently). Though people also don’t take the comedies very seriously, which makes me sad.

7. What is your favorite aspect of your work?

Getting to work with engaged students.

8. How do you define success in your classes?

Being able to ask questions about works of literature that you weren’t able to ask before. 

9. What are people surprised to learn about you?

That I was born about two months premature, probably.

10. What book do you wish you had read sooner?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. For a while I kept buying spare copies of this book just so I could give them away to people who hadn’t read it.

11. Coffee or tea? 

Definitely tea.

12. Pen or pencil?

Pen—preferably one with a narrow point.

13. Scripted or improvised?

Scripted. I’m not great at improv. 

14. Fall, winter, spring, or summer?

Fall—sweater weather is the best weather. And fall has the best farmers’ market vegetables. 

15. What is your favorite museum? 

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s full of objects that ordinary people actually lived with, and they have a great collection of 16th- and 17th-century clothing. The dining hall decorated by William Morris is also splendid. 

16. What do you bring to a potluck?

Fruit crumble, probably. I’m not a great cook, but they’re pretty foolproof. 

17. What is your go-to Boston eatery?

I’m a brunch person—put a poached egg on it, and I’m happy—so probably Tatte.

18. If you could live as a local for 48 hours anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

This is cheating, perhaps—I did a semester abroad there in college—but I’d go back to Norwich, England. 

19. If you could join any past or current music group, which would you want to join?

Fairport Convention, in the Liege and Lief era. Though really I’d just want to watch them record “Tam Lin” and “Matty Groves.”

20. What is the theme song of your life?

“After All” by Dar Williams, probably. Or “Northern Sky” by Nick Drake.  

Bonus: What is your motto? 

“She could stand there and she could love Charles Wallace,” from A Wrinkle In Time.

Meet More Commonwealth Teachers