At 15, my mother announced I would no longer be attending my strict all-boys school. I was to become a Dragon student. She may have been put off by the press coverage of a scandal at my old school, but I had doubts about the new one. It was small. Desks did not exist. I had to pick out my clothes. I soon saw the upside. The classes, mostly taught by professors, ran like university seminars. Where I would once bite my tongue, I was free to speak. I would no longer have to sit through handshaking lessons. The Dragon's strength was in its teachers. They pushed me to engage with courses and left me with the life-long habit of thinking thoroughly.
While my previous school very much framed life around strict rules, one of the most charming aspects of the Dragon is how much you are allowed to do. Want to start a team or club? Do it. The staff will support you, but you will soon learn that good ideas need self-discipline to succeed. Want to explore the room-like passage behind the knee-broken plaster? No, that is a safety issue. I know from experience, that doing so will land you in the principals office. Discipline is an interesting issue at the Dragon. The school is not one well-tailored for those who lack it, however, when situations may be learned from -- poor decision-making and youthful japes -- they are handled with understanding.
Most of the humanities and science classes -- which, fair warning, clock in at an hour-and-a-half -- begin with a short lecture, and end with a class-wide discussion. When I stumbled into one a few months ago (to debate-coach, not school prowling), I was struck by how much participation went on. As for the math classes, they were never my forte and not something I pursued, but I remember them fondly.
The principal -- who is lovely -- keeps dubious company: Opera, theatre and ballet company directors. Dragon Academy children are a fixture at the lot. While this can be said for many schools, they very rarely got the backstage tours, the seminars with actors or the guest speakers. As far as school trips are concerned, the Dragon is 'museum-based', which means students should expect to find themselves somewhere interesting at least once a week. There are also other school-organized trips -- from a week in New York to model UNs in Montreal. I am not sure about the overseas thing. Well-rounded is the end goal for all the students. Almost ten years on, I like to believe it stuck.
The Dragon's kids do tend to be paler and better-off than the average child, though there are some accommodations made, and the school is distinctly more diverse than other Toronto private schools. Efforts are made to expose students with culturally diverse influences. The kids are, if my debaters are anything to go by, frighteningly intelligent, politically aware and kindly. There isn't much tolerance for malevolence and the school is fairly selective, so this is no just pride-fueled bias speaking. While they are not generally unusual, there is a tendency for them to look past the insignificant idiosyncrasies that might lead to bullying elsewhere.
The Dragon Academy's academic program is, despite being the antithesis of a 'preppy' school, built to prepare students to be effective undergraduates. The teachers, deceptive beasts that they are, have this trick they use in order to get their classes engaged in the ideas being discussed. They make them interesting.
Several of the teachers were professors, and all were willing to put the time in to help us with our university applications. They indulged the byzantine bureaucracy of my international applications without complaint, and everyone went somewhere. The guidance was exceptional -- I may have leaned on it while considering grad schools.
Life at the Dragon Academy was lovely. The classes were more than interesting to incite curiosity in students and so the students were willing participants. Socially, it is quite small, and while I always maintained outside friends, the grades were quite tightly knit. I might have preferred a larger social circle, but the school has grown considerably in the past decade, so I am not sure that would still be a concern. While there were quite a few essays, the teachers worked to plan out their assignments in order to prevent stress-inducing pile-ups. I might suggest the school to a family eager to see their child engage in their studies.
The parents were involved, though, for anyone considering a school for its parental involvement, I might point out that it is not something any student has ever cared about. As the almost best man of a fellow Dragon, it is safe to say the friendship survived, even though the engagement fell apart. As an alumnus, I still see the principal and a few of the teachers on a fairly regular basis, and have coached the model UN team. I still see classmates regularly, despite many of us having moved around the globe.
The school is in a lovely place just north of the ROM in Yorkville. The students are free to roam during their lunches, and regular school trips are taken to the many nearby museums. The neighbourhood is safe, leafy and pleasant.
The admissions involved an interview and some sort of testing, as I recall. I believe the process now involves a test -- though I could not say for sure. I do remember an hour-long conversation designed to gauge me as a fit.