My parents had a very clear idea regarding the type of education they wanted for me: bilingual in Spanish and English. In the 1990s, not many Spanish schools offered this type of bilingual education. One of the few that did, BRAINS School in “La Moraleja” (Madrid), was the chosen one. Needless to say, my parents did a huge financial effort to provide me a bilingual education at such an excellent institution. But, as they say, as long I make the most of it, they are happy to invest in my education knowing that their investment will be returned tenfold.
I joined the school in 1999 – though I had already been at their Nursery School for 3 years before that – and I still have some very fond memories of my time there. I remember the “open classes” during the first years of elementary schools, where we had the opportunity to share with our parents all that we had learnt in class. Sometimes we would even carry out short plays, like “The Elves and the Shoemaker” or dress up like cavemen and reenact how prehistoric men and women lived hundreds of thousands years ago. Overall, BRAINS School offered – and still offers – great opportunities for students to develop their skills. Here’s a list of all the activities that, thanks to the school, I was part of:
- KUMON Method. I started doing the maths programme of the KUMON Method in 1999 and managed to complete it in 2011. Yes, it took me 12 years. But, hey, I completed it. Most people don’t get to the end. By now you must be asking what is this KUMON Method I’m talking about. Well, it is basically a maths programme based on worksheets that you have to complete everyday at home. No excuses. It usually takes 15-20 minutes and the goal of the programme is to nurture independent, advanced self-learners. The maths programme starts with levels 6A, 5A, 4A, which cover counting exercises, then goes on with levels 3A, 2A, A, B, C, and D, which focus on number writing, and mental adding and subtracting; levels E and F cover fractions; levels G, H and I are algebraic exercises; J, K, L, and M focus on functions and the last two, N and O, are all about calculus. Each level is comprised of 200 worksheets (each one more difficult than the previous one) that have to be completed correctly twice in order to pass to the next level. I know it sounds like a nightmare and, to be honest, many times it felt like one. But before giving up I thought why I had held on so long in the first place. When I got to the hardest levels (J and onwards) I set myself the goal of completing the programme and, in June 2011, I handed in my last worksheet. There are few things in my life which I am prouder of than completing the KUMON Method.
- The basketball team. I joined the basketball team in 3rd grade (8-9 y/o) when I auditioned without even telling my parents I had any intention of doing so. However, they were very supportive and didn’t miss a single match in the next 7 years. On our first year as a team, we won the Basketball School League in Madrid. So, yeah, we were the best basketball team of 3rd graders in Madrid. Yay! We never won that title again, but I will never forget how I cried when we won that trophy.
- The school band. When I started junior high school (7th grade) I heard the school had a music band that covered famous songs. Of course, as a “rebellious” teenager, I wanted to learn to play electric guitar (why not?!). So, after talking it through with my parents, they agreed on getting me beginners lessons in the summer so that I could join the band in 8th grade. And I did! It was an honour being part of something special. Something that was all about us.
- School in Canada. In 10th grade, I travelled to Victoria, British Columbia, and lived with a host family from September to November. Since it was an optional school activity, the students who decided to go on this exchange had to take their Semester 1 exams in advance (July). That meant I spent the summer studying but that, after passing my exams, I could go to Canada “carefree”, enjoy my time there, and not worry about getting back home two weeks before the final exams. Since it was such a wonderful experience, it has a separate post. Just click on the link if you want to know more about it!
- Exchange in Paris. When we started “high school” we had to choose a third language: French or German. I chose French and, on my fourth year of French studies (10th grade) I went on an exchange to Paris. It was only one week, but we lived with a host family and were paired with a French student who was learning Spanish. The highlight of the trip was that a volcanic eruption in Iceland forced the cancellation of many European flights, which meant that our trip leaders had to rent a bus to drive us from Paris to Madrid… and we missed school! Oops.
- Theatre group “ARCADIA”. Probably the biggest pride of the school is its theatre group: ARCADIA. It is, in my opinion, one of the best things the school has to offer. They represent a play at the end of every school year, be it musicals like Grease, the Blues Brothers, Nightmare Before Christmas and Mamma Mia, or classic plays like Othello, The Imaginary Invalid and The Trickster of Seville. I joined the theatre group in 11th grade because I wanted my last two years at the school to be memorable. And they were, for most part, thanks to to my experience with the theatre group.
You can imagine how much fun I had and how bittersweet it was to say goodbye to these years of my life. When I look back, I am very grateful to all of the teaching staff that make BRAINS School one of its kind in its pursue of excellence, innovation and solidarity.