August 5, 2015

Teachers Talk Back: Asia Foreman

Asia is a high school Spanish teacher at Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In this conversation with E4E-Connecticut Outreach Director Samantha Gardiner, Asia discusses her passion for educational equity and her experiences as an E4E Teacher Leader and Summer Resident.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Samantha Gardiner (SG): What inspired you to become a teacher?

Asia Foreman (AF): I grew up in a wealthy, affluent area in Connecticut and saw first hand the inequity between Fairfield, where I grew up, and Bridgeport, where many of my friends went to school and where I now teach. The stories that my friends from Bridgeport would tell me were completely different than the educational experiences that I had in Fairfield. Although the two districts are only a five-minute drive apart, it was a completely different world. It’s hard for me knowing that my education might have been completely different had I grown up in Bridgeport. This educational inequity is what inspired me to become a teacher. This is what keeps me motivated to be the best I can be for my students every day.

SG: What do you love about teaching in Bridgeport?

AF: My students - they are wonderful. They are funny, passionate, and super dedicated. I feel like the relationship I have with them is unlike any relationship I have with anyone else in my life. Coming into teaching my first year, I thought it was going to be me standing in front of the class and giving a lesson, them taking notes, and then activities or tests. What it really ended up being was half academic and half relationship building. My students call me their sister, their friend. We talk about their lives, their goals, and their future. Yes, they are learning, but it is the relationship piece that keeps me waking up every morning.

SG: What do you see as the value of an education in World Languages?

AF: My theory on the value of World Language instruction has changed since I first started teaching. At first, I put a value on motivating my students to travel and see the world. Now, what is most important for me is to highlight that our city is extremely diverse and that World Language instruction is important for my students’ everyday lives. In our neighborhoods, there are signs that are first in Spanish, then in English. In my school, there are students who are from Haiti and speak French, students who just moved to my school from India, and students who speak Spanish at home. My students have already been exposed to a great deal of diversity and don’t necessarily need to travel the world to understand that or to use the language they’re learning in my class. I really I want my students to embrace the diversity in Bridgeport and to be able to communicate with the people in their community in order to build connections and prevent marginalization.

SG: What motivated you to get involved with E4E?

AF: What I found in E4E is a way for me to connect with people who are like-minded, who are on the same page, who are aligned. We can talk about issues and feel like we’re working toward a common goal. Often, I don't feel like we have a safe space to talk about issues and solutions and E4E gives us that space. What has kept me involved is that the organization really validates itself with the work that we do. It is not just a bunch of teachers sitting around in a bar talking and complaining. Yeah, that feels good, but where is it going? In Bridgeport, you see E4E teachers working on advocacy teams, making recommendations, and participating in meetings with the superintendent. You can actually see progress being made in our community through E4E. The more involved, the more I feel like I have a say in the ways that positive change can be made. 

SG: This past June, you and other E4E leaders hosted a panel with Superintendent Rabinowitz, one of your students, and other district stakeholders to discuss school culture. What was this experience like?

AF: The process of helping to organize this event was intimidating at first. What I’ve learned is that I sometimes get nervous to do something because I believe that someone else has more experience or power in the district and that maybe I shouldn’t be the one speaking up. Once I got over that, I realized that I can go up to a veteran teacher and ask them to go to event or empower one of my students to sit on a panel with the superintendent. I have the power to make change happen.

SG: What excited you most about your work as an E4E Summer Resident?

AF:  I’m excited to have my hands on E4E-CT’s upcoming work on school finance. This issue is so important to me because it affects my classroom and students so directly. Before starting my residency, I didn’t really understand much about school finance policy. My experience has helped me to better understand this issue and how we can put the tools in teachers’ hands to create solutions and make positive change in Bridgeport.