REVIEW OF Academy of Thought and Industry Toronto BY parent, Jonathan McCarthy
- Date of Review
November 29, 2022
- Child 1
Gr. 7 - Gr. 8 (Male, Current Day Student)
(4.5) Student Experience
My son has thoroughly enjoyed his first year at ATI Toronto. He would say that his favorite parts of school are the Beaches location (proximity and accessibility by public transit gives him freedom - and the ability to sleep in a little), his friends (including a few local kids that he shares interests with outside of school), his guides (including the personalized attention) and the specialty programming (especially digital art and physical education). As a parent, I am most happy seeing him develop into an independent, confident teenager. From finding his way to school each day to mastery projects in art, to the ease with which he communicates on serious subjects (The Socratic method was taught early in the year), to his critical thinking skills, he has developed quickly this year. I know that he is challenged in choosing a capstone Grade 7 project, but I'm sure his guides and friends will help nudge him along.
(5) School Leadership
I would describe the ATI Toronto leadership team as entrepreneurial, passionate, and highly engaged. They also seem to benefit from the resources of a much larger network of schools in the U.S. A proprietary LMS system is a little clunky at times, but I think the weekly communication from school leadership and portal into my child's work are wonderful additions. Communication is consistent and clear. I also like that I am asked for customer feedback, both in regard to operations and academics.
As Montessori guides, I think the ATI Toronto teachers are unique in their ability to not only educate, but also to coach each child. The guides are undoubtedly passionate about their subjects, but even more so, passionate about the pedagogy and the children themselves. From the Socratic Method to major arcs in human history, to the beauty of language and the power of high-functioning teams, I see the guides as coaches and educational guides as much as subject matter experts. My son is definitely being given some new (and hard) challenges, but not in the traditional sense of a harder test, or larger assignment. The bigger challenge he faces is in discovering knowledge, making good choices, dealing with uncertainty and mastering life skills. I am excited to see what's next!
The academic program at ATI Toronto is based on an extension of the Montessori pedagogy for children of middle school and high school age. It emphasizes the passionate pursuit of deep knowledge and subject mastery, built on a foundation of critical thinking, reason and logic, the scientific method and Socratic debate. Unlike many 'classical' approaches to education, ATI Toronto also emphasizes individual choice and the pursuit of knowledge for the individual life. The culture is not one of standardized tests, rote memorization or rigid curriculum, but rather one of individual development and independence. Whether university or entrepreneurship, the creative arts or sport, I believe that ATI Toronto is helping prepare my son to thrive, independently, in the pursuits that he cares about most. To thrive requires both the confidence/willingness to choose - and the knowledge/skills to choose well!
As a small school, I know that ATI has to rely on local partners for extracurriculars. Based on feedback from my son, both the music partner (Beyond the Beat) and the athletics partner (Bob Acton Sports) are amazing. It would be nice to have a larger group for certain team activities, but the independent camping trips, museum tours and trips off campus have all been wonderful additions to the core classroom work.
The study body is small, cohesive, diverse and independent. I think what stands out most is the small size and diversity. As a "micro-school", with a 10-to-1 teacher-to-student ratio, ATI classes offer personalized instruction and attention from guides, but also a smaller set of friends & classmates than many alternatives. One of my worries before enrolling my son is that he wouldn't easily be able to find/develop a friend group. The concern was unfounded! While each child is different and has different interests, my son has found a friend for sports, chess, art, math, etc. And he also discovered new interests from classmates that have their own favorite subjects - French, music and culinary arts. In terms of student interaction, I think the camping retreat early in the year was a great way for the kids to get to know each other, and build a culture and set of norms together.
(5) School Life
My son loves going to ATI. He may not always say it, but he is generally excited to start the day, see his friends and dive into his work. As a parent, I think my son has it pretty darn well! The experience is so different from my middle school and high school years, and the pace of learning is so much higher than I often joke about returning to school myself. I mean, who wouldn't want to discover how salt melts ice, learn how to write engrossing short stories, understand the role of money and credit in an economy, and develop methods of inductive and deductive reasoning? At the same time, I think my son would say it differently. Why does he love ATI? He gets to learn with friends. He has guides that genuinely care about him. He is able to choose much of his work. And while he is challenged, he isn't pressured to get every answer "right", or to be someone that he isn't. He still gets to be a kid, but he can play the professional game of life.
ATI Toronto definitely has a local, community feel. Located in the Beaches, itself a smaller village east of downtown Toronto that is generally close-knit, ATI Toronto is generally comprised of local families, local guides and many local partners. Also, the kids generally make use of the many parks (Kew, Woodbine and sometimes venturing to Withrow), the beach & boardwalk, restaurants (Fearless Meats is the favorite after school), the Kingston Road YMCA and numerous family backyards. Many, but not all, parents know each other from the neighborhood. For the families that are newer to the Beaches (including some that recently moved from Germany and the U.S.) I think they would find a welcoming environment and many opportunities to get involved at the school if they so desired.
(4.5) School Location
Students venture weekly into the neighborhood, both for music (Beyond the Beat) and physical education (Bob Acton Sports). In addition, children with permission are planning Friday lunches in the surrounding neighborhood, as well as lunchtime skating/shinny during January and February. There are also ongoing one-off trips into the community, for example for Remembrance Day, the Terry Fox run, nature observation/specimen collection and sometimes just recess walks.
Apply early, simply given the small size of the school and limited physical capacity! I don't think the admissions process is stressful in the way that many private school processes are. Rather, it is a two-sided assessment of whether ATI is a great fit for the child in question. While there is a formal academic review, the bigger emphasis is on the development needs of the child and the development approach of ATI. Whether a child is reading above grade level or below, excels in creative arts or sports, or loves or hates math, I think ATI Toronto does a wonderful job of focusing on *fit*. As I've heard it told: every tree in the forest is unique - and no tree grows at the exact same rate in the exact same way as another. But assessing the type of soil, the amount of rain and sunlight and the surrounding trees is a good idea before planting.