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StoryCorps: Bilingual pre-school teacher describes the state of education in Chicago

Iveth Romano teaches pre-school in Chicago and many of her students are bilingual. She came by the StoryCorps booth recently to speak with producer Katie Klocksin about the importance of supporting kids who are learning two languages.

“Most of the parents don’t speak English,” Romano said. “But most of our teachers who have a Bachelors’, they are American, so they just speak English.”

“I remember once a girl she just peed her pants and started crying,” she continued. “I was in another classroom but I heard the girl say that she wanted to use the bathroom, in Spanish. But [none] of the teachers understood what she said. They (didn’t) pay attention to her and she just peed on her pants and started crying and they gave her a timeout.”

Romano says she has a lot of examples like that. She says she sees situations like that once per week or twice a week.

Romano pushes all her students to learn English and Spanish. In her classroom, they say their ABCs in both languages.

Sometimes, though, parents are oblivious to what’s going on - good or bad - in the classroom.

“It’s not because people are bad. Or they don’t know how to say ‘thank you.’ I think it’s more that they’re tired. Sometimes you don’t really know what kind of job they have. Sometimes they have two different jobs in one day. So that [does] not make me feel bad that they don’t say ‘thank you.’ They don’t say nothing. They just take the kid and leave. I understand. Sometimes they look really tired.”

Teaching can be stressful, Klocksin said, but “there’s obviously a lot of rewards to it too. Why did you go into this?”

“Cause my son is four years old,” Romano said, “And he used to attend a Head Start but I just moved him to a Catholic school because here in Chicago. The education in the public schools is really difficult in this moment.”

Romano says two of the neighborhood public schools closed, so classrooms that used to have twenty kids are now thirty-five or forty kids.

Romano says her son is doing better now.

“His behavior’s completely different,” Romano said. “He looks more happy. He looks more confident.”

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