Grant side project: organizing a traditional U.S. prom for the 4º ESO students at IES Luis García Berlanga.

Prom_2.redimensionadoPicture a sunny evening in May. There is an easel with an elegant poster proclaiming “A Night at the Oscars” featuring a miniature man of gold. You walk through balloons and take a gold star. You write your name. You tape your star to the brick wall where it shines with the others. You follow the red carpet, grab a goofy mustache or feather boa, and strike a pose. Uno, dos, tres, cheeeeese. There are lots of tapas and tinto de verano (sin alcohol) to go around…welcome to Spanish PromProm_1.redimensionado

Dances, school sports, and clubs present wonderful opportunities for students to bond together outside of class, pursue shared interests, practice teamwork, and build school spirit, but after-school activities are not common in Madrid public high schools. Fulbrighters pursue side projects to expand their communities beyond the classroom, and my fellow TAs and I decided to throw a prom for our 4°ESO students. What better way to celebrate the last year of compulsory education and share a quintessentially American high school tradition?

We held a meeting to gauge interest and the turnout was huge. Many students knew about proms from movies. Would there be punch? A fondue fountain? A Prom King and Queen who would slow dance? One student proposed assigning attendees random numbers and pairing them up for a dance. A second wanted to play songs by Panic! At the Disco and My Chemical Romance. Another pleaded, No music by One Direction. What theme: 80’s, Grease, Oscars? Students gave suggestions in class, in the hallways between classes, and on the patio during recreos. The excitement was palpable!

Prom_4.redimensionadoWe TAs really wanted to share our extracurricular experiences with the students so we asked them to help lead the planning. Twenty students jumped on board and the illustrious Prom Committee was off to a running start. The Committee put lots of time, effort, and heart into planning. They sold tickets, made decorations, and planned food during recreos and free periods. When ticket sales were slow, several of them visited classes to promote Prom. Three students organized and gathered Prom King and Queen nominations from their classmates. Two more walked around wearing examples of what to wear (and what not to wear) to the semi-formal Prom. The Committee learned to lead their peers, plan an event on a budget, complete a long-term project from scratch and, in the process, successfully pioneer a new tradition at the school.

Prom was a group effort that extended far beyond us teaching assistants and the Committee. We partnered with AMPA (the parents’ association) to sell tickets, Consejería and mantenimiento to prepare for the big day, and the cafetería for delicious tapas. Jefatura served as our sounding board. A big thank you, too, to the U.S.-Spain Fulbright Commission for a generous side project stipend and for valuable advice. We are all so grateful for the support and enthusiasm we received from all parts of the (extended) school community!

Teresa Liu, Fulbright/Comunidad de Madrid TA 2015-16