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"It was a great experience"


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Review of: The Dragon Academy

Bret Seifert-Pizzuti - Alumnus    (Apr 07, 2018)

Overall Experience

The Dragon is an amazing school that both changed my perspective on education and prepared me very well for university. The atmosphere was safe, welcoming, and very supportive. The curriculum and teaching style -the Socratic method- were intrinsically intellectually engaging and challenging enough to inspire me to learn and prepare me for university academics. The frequent trips to museums, as well as study of films on relevant subject matter, further enhanced student engagement. It prepared me for university as it went above and beyond in teaching me to think critically and actively learn as opposed to merely memorize required material. If you are looking for a school that supports their students and enables them to achieve greatly then I'd very strongly recommend the Dragon.


School Leadership

The leadership was effective, responsive and fair. In my experience this was a result of the individual staff member's commitment to the learning environment, the school's inclusive and fair philosophy, and the student to staff ratio that is manageable and thus avoids bureaucratic arbitrariness, delays and unfairness. All the teachers and the principal were approachable and capable of resolving problems. What stood out in my mind was how effective the leadership (and especially the principal) was at making sure students felt they were treated fairly while also preventing toxic dynamics in the students and/or dealing with problematic behaviors that negatively effect other students. To say that it was miles better than the public system in this regard would be an understatement.


Teaching

The teaching methods at the Dragon inspired a love of learning while also preparing me well. The emphasis on internalizing the material as well as critical and constructive analysis/discussions prepared me for university seminars. This point should not be understated as other high schools do not (in my experience) give you those skills. The classroom environment was comfortable and respectful while also being engaging and not full of distractions. Crucially it cultivated an environment where students were not afraid to ask questions and not afraid of being wrong. Lastly, the field trips and ability to explore ideas created an appreciation of why these subjects matter beyond simply being required to study them for a diploma. This enhanced my motivation and enjoyment of learning tremendously.


Academics

The Socratic method and field trips both created deep learning and was far more engaging and enjoyable than standard teaching. The material itself was advanced, often pulling from university textbooks, which made it both challenging and interesting. With the emphasis on participation and small class sizes everyone was able to get the help they needed. The atmosphere wasn't competitive for grades and prestige; and enthusiastic but respectful debate was encouraged. It's emphasis on understanding as opposed to mere memorization, critical thinking, and making connections prepared me for university well as university work generally rewards those skills while punishing mere regurgitation.


Extracurriculars

I didn't take part in many as I was living in another city and commuting etc so I may not be the most informative on this. However, I did attend a few enjoyable trips, and heard positive things about school camping trips, trips to the Dominican Republic etc. I would advise looking into what the Dragon currently offers.


Students

The student body seemed small, accepting, and reasonably enthusiastic. Students naturally formed groups of friends but didn't deliberately exclude others. Most students were noticeably smart and some had learning challenges but were also intelligent. There were a mixture of ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. My impression was that most students came from a comfortable or wealthier socioeconomic background but they were not pretentious or snobby. A particularly good point is that there were no severely-disrespectful or bullying students. The administration ensured that nothing egregious would happen in the student body; it ensured the student body remained a safe environment.


School Life

It was a great experience. The academics were enjoyable, the environment was relaxed as students got the support they needed, the students made good friends, and the location made traveling to museums or restaurants easy. The staff went above and beyond in ensuring students had the support they needed academically and personally. The commute downtown wasn't bad and you could go out to many different restaurants during lunch hour.


Community

The parent committee was actively involved, and there were frequent school trips. Dr. Fox (The Principal) is an amazing person and many alumni, including myself, stay in touch with her.


School Location

The location was great. It's a 3 minute walk from the St. George stop so it's accessible by subway without having to take a bus. It's about a 15 minute walk from the ROM so that made frequent trips there possible. Students frequently went out on lunch break or after school. The community seemed safe and decent though traffic was busy (but the pros of being downtown there FAR outweigh the traffic)


Admissions

Admissions was easy as the school is small. It was easy to speak to the principal and teachers, sit in on a class etc. The best advice I could give is to sit in on a class, or spend a day there, and see if it is a good fit as the Socratic method is very different from a traditional classroom environment. Based on what I saw prospective students who spent a day there would end up being fairly certain if it was the right school for them.


University placement and counselling

There was plenty of support generally and this was true of university counseling as well. Lots of the staff had graduate university degrees, and Dr. Fox worked as a Prof, so they are both knowledgeable and have first hand experience. The teachers get to know the student's strengths, weaknesses and interests so they are in a good position to make recommendations and help students apply.


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