Notes & News Julio 2016

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From the President

This summer, the International Institute in Spain has explored new community resources and relationships on both sides of the Atlantic.

Brainstorming about the idea that Young Learners studying English at the Institute would benefit from contact with American elementary or middle school students led to an exciting connection not between students, but between American and Spanish teachers. In conjunction with the American Space Madrid and the Consejería de Educación of the Comunidad de Madrid, two language teachers from the Brookline, Massachusetts, Public Schools came to the Institute to offer a course to a group of about 25 Spanish primary school teachers on “Teaching for Proficiency,” designed to enhance instruction in and about English in Spanish schools. Esther Borras Morales, who teaches Spanish to Brookline seventh and eighth graders, and Lauren Carroll, who teaches English Language Learners at Brookline’s Runkle School, developed the course to share U.S. pedagogical methods with their Spanish counterparts. Offered from July 11-15, the course elicited positive reaction from the Madrid teachers, who asserted that they would like to take more such courses at the Institute.

As Lauren Carroll observed, “This course not only gave the Spanish participants the opportunity to work with two American teachers, but also with the other Spanish teachers through activities we taught them to use in the classroom with their own students.”

Esther Borras noted that “teachers in the course were able to reflect often on their own teaching practices and found validation when they were familiar with the resources and techniques we taught.  They deepened their learning by linking these activities with teaching theory and through the extension and intervention suggestions that Lauren and I provided.” Esther and Lauren will repeat the course for teachers in Valencia, in conjunction with the American Space Valencia. The Institute’s American English and Culture Program as well as the American Space Madrid will continue to explore ways in which the Institute can create more offerings to encourage and improve English language instruction in Spain.

Happily, several of the Madrid teachers in the course were excited about the possibility of virtual connection of their English language pupils with students in Massachusetts. Esther is working with our Director of English so that our 13 and 14-year-old Young Learners can connect with Brookline students this fall. We are confident that in addition to providing language practice, this link will create friendships across the Atlantic.

Another institutional connection arose from a spring American Cultural Studies course at the Institute that focused on American painters Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, whose works were the subject of a major exhibition at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. Contacts with the museum led to a talk by the Wyeth exhibit’s curator, Timothy Standring of the Denver Art Museum, at the Institute on June 10. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza graciously agreed to allow students from the summer American Cultural Studies course “Peggy Guggenheim’s Life of Art,” focused on the colorful and influential American collector of 20th century art, to visit the museum with Institute instructor Alexa Brooks. The class visit was to center on the works in the Thyssen collection by artists who were favorites of Guggenheim. Our positive experience with the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza will encourage the Institute to seek relationships with other Madrid cultural and arts organizations that may be presenting American works of literature, art, or theater.

This year, the Institute’s Summer in the City urban day camp was able to connect with Serve the City Madrid, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for volunteering to young people. Serve the City Madrid offers young Americans the opportunity to work in Spain on various socially-beneficial projects such as aiding the homeless. Serve the City Madrid participants spoke to teens from the Institute summer camp—in English–about volunteering and the part community service plays in American students’ experience. The teens then joined in a project to prepare and, in company with the Serve the City volunteers, distribute food to homeless people. Several parents wrote to English Program Director Nicole Rosow to express their positive response to this introduction to American-style voluntarism provided by the Summer in the City camp. Sharing the American notion of community service with the camp’s teens was an initiative of Nicole’s and of Board of Directors member Susan Solomont, who encouraged volunteering activities during the time she and her husband Alan Solomont were in Madrid during his tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Spain.

Each of these connections with another institution or organization enriches the Institute and enhances what it offers to the people of Madrid. Exploring the possibilities for such relationships and for adding new elements to the International Institute’s courses and programming makes our organization a vital one that continues to fulfill the mission of cultural and educational exchange between the U.S. and Spain to which it has been dedicated since 1892.

Prof. Margery Resnick, President