School Snapshot: IES Villablanca, Madrid, Spain

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This Snapshot was submitted by Álvaro Mediavilla from Madrid, Spain. After teaching Spanish in the U.S. , Álvaro returned to Madrid and co-founded Bablingua, a company that creates culturally authentic videos for Spanish teachers and their students.

photo by schoolofeverything

In this Snapshot, Álvaro describes a school in Madrid where he teaches English courses.

The School

Instituto de Educación Secundaria Villablanca (IES Villablanca) Vicálvaro, Madrid. I don’t work for the school, I work for the Madrid Chamber of Commerce, so I don’t have any information regarding the number of students/staff.

The Chamber of Commerce offers courses to Schools that don’t have an English program, and then a teacher goes there four times a week to teach a Business English course.

This school is what we call in Spain an Instituto de Educación Secundaria (IES). The one I attended is an alternative to college, and it offers different study programs, from Computing to Mechanics.

Hands-on classes are more common that theoretical ones, and students need to complete two years to graduate. Half of their second year is spent in companies, so they get a working experience before finally leaving the school.

Yearly Schedule

The schools starts in mid-September and ends at the end of June. The most important vacations are summer (end of June to mid-September), Christmas break (from 22 December until 8 January) and Spring Break, or Semana Santa, which usually lasts 10 days, in March-April.

The holidays that are celebrated with a day off from school include Constitution Day (6 December), Día de la Inmaculada (8 December), San José or St. Joseph’s Day (19 March), Día del Trabajo (1 May) and Día de la Comunidad de Madrid (2 May).

Daily Schedule

I’m not sure about the schedule, but it has to be something like from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I had my classes after their mandatory school hours, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p,.m.

Students eat at home, after school. There is a canteen in the school, but not many students eat there. Teachers also eat at home; in school they just eat a snack between classes.


Many students live nearby and they walk to school. There are many others who use public transport, mainly the train or the subway. And then there is a minority who drive their own cars.

In my case, I took the subway every day, and it took me about 45 minutes to go from Sol (Madrid city center, where I live) to the school.


It’s pretty much common sense. As far as I know, there isn’t a written dress code.

That doesn’t mean dress code is not an issue. It might be with some students, and I guess if there’s somebody wearing something inappropriate, they’ll have to go to see the principal. But I don’t think that ever happens, or not very often in any case.


Most of my students were over 18, so they are suppose to care about their own studies. I don’t think parents are very involved in that school.


We don’t have any “coming of age” tradition or ritual. School is pretty much a place to go to study, and teachers and students don’t have many opportunities to socialize. As soon as the bell rings, everybody disappears and the schools remains empty.

That doesn’t mean that the students aren’t friends between them. It just means that their celebrations and free time activities don’t usually take place within the school building.


We took this picture the last day of our course. I’m the guy with glasses and a beard. And that’s our classroom, or part of it. On the other end, we have a chalk board, a projector connected to a DVD player, and of course more tables and chairs, plus the teacher desk. There are windows in one side of the classroom, from where you can see the only sport facility the school has: a small football field of what we call “fútbol sala”, which is the small version of soccer, usually played indoors with five players in each team.

Two of my students are from Peru, and one is from Ecuador. The other 7 are from Spain. This is a very small class, regular teachers usually have about 25 students in each class.

The school is a two-story building, placed in a residential area in the outskirts of Madrid. There is a reception beside the entrance, next to the Administration offices. There is also an additional building for the students who are in the mechanic courses.

Álvaro Mediavilla teaches English in Madrid, Spain. After three years teaching Spanish in the U.S. state of North Carolina with the Visiting International Faculty Program (VIF), Álvaro returned to Madrid and co-founded Bablingua, a company that creates culturally authentic videos for Spanish teachers and their students.

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About the Author: Cate Brubaker

Dr. Cate Brubaker is a re-entry/repatriation coach, consultant, and author of the Re-Entry Roadmap creative workbook and the Study Abroad Re-entry Toolkit. Cate has lived in Germany, worked and traveled in 36 countries on four continents, and has helped all kinds of globetrotters successfully navigate global transitions for over 20 years.

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