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Review of: The Dragon Academy

Tony Itchystitch - Alumnus    (Apr 09, 2018)

Overall Experience

School was a chore until I came to Dragon. There's something magical about the environment that the staff cultivate. Every class discussion, field trip, and project was engaging. I was not rarely late for my next class, because I was too distracted talking to my physics teacher about black holes, or simulating ropes. Everyone was part of the class discussion, because class was about understanding what the teacher was talking about, not just memorizing what they had to say. The tight community meant I couldn't shy away from the amazing people who surrounded me. I found common ground to build lifelong friendships with truly one-of-a-kind people. Dragon helped me realize who I am, and not just what my interests are, but what kind of person I want to be.


School Leadership

Every teacher was almost always ready for a student to walk into their office in need of help. I never felt disrespected or discouraged from approaching any of the teachers or the staff body. We were all close to the staff body and had a personal relationship with each teacher. I can't speak for every student, and I was never directly involved in any discipline issues, so I can only speak second hand. The staff body addressed issues as quickly as possible. They held weekly staff meetings to discuss every issue, as well as every class, grade, and student. Their meetings went as long as they had to. Parents and students were always kept in the loop, and parents were just as welcome to approach teachers as the students.


Teaching

I have fond memories with every teacher I had. Their passion for knowledge permeated everything and everyone at the Dragon. Class took place around a table, where we could all see each other. Everyone partook in the class discussion and everyone added. Everyone asked questions. When the teachers were ready with answers, they were ready to figure it out with the students. New thought experiments in physics class, new perspectives in history, or new mindsets in philosophy, all of which usually ended with more questions, but always brought us a deeper understanding for the content at hand. The Dragon teachers worked hard to maintain this. They respected every student and heard every voice. They caught every email I could shoot them. I would not have the passion I do today if they hadn't provided that constant support.


Academics

Academics were a strength at Dragon. We were all academically minded, even those who weren't after an academic career. We couldn't compete with each other if we tried. Hard feelings just didn't last. We felt like family, and we knew we were in this together. We were ready to help each other with homework, studying, independent projects, or problems we invented just for the sake of solving them. Teachers were, once again, always there for us to lean on if we just couldn't figure something out. One of the unavoidable small-school drawbacks, however, was that we didn't always have enough students interested in a course for the school to offer it. It wasn't a big deal to me that music won't be offered this year, or I'd need a tutor to take media arts, but it might be to someone else, so be warned.


Extracurriculars

Another drawback with being a small school is that they could not support a great many extracurriculars. There were great options, like model UN, or learning what they do at the labs in OISE. There were certainly enough options for me, but I knew students for whom that was not the case. The existing extracurriculars existed only through incredible effort from the teachers and active parents, and a large amount of student interest. I'm sure that as the school grows, and more parents get involved, this will improve. On top of that, teachers were very supportive of our own independent studies and projects. Some of my friends and I are aspiring game developers, and we relied on a lot of our teachers for help and input when we were coding, designing, and drawing our games.


Students

The student body is small, maybe even tiny, but it never felt less than all I need. I was surrounded by few peers, compared to other schools, but we had an incredible connection, even between years. Everyone was unique, quirky, and interesting. I woke up every morning excited to go see them. With each other's help, students very quickly found their interests. Many changed their mind, sometimes a lot. Everyone knew everyone. We didn't hold grudges for long, because we couldn't. We trusted each other and relied on each other. Things weren't always peachy, but that thread of trust ran through all of us. That dynamic is what first struck me when I visited in sixth grade. That's how I knew this was where I belonged.


School Life

The school life could not have been better. For the reasons I mentioned, school was exciting. I enjoyed being at school more than being at home. I was surrounded by interesting people and interesting ideas. Outside of class, I could find any quiet, cozy spot to sit and work, or eat lunch with my friends while we discuss how we felt about that art piece, or that math problem, or why my code has errors. I could approach any teacher about an interesting idea or for input on an independent project. When it came to class, I was not often stressed, and it was usually self-induced. Email after email, my teachers always supported me. My friends would say the same. I can't think of anything I would change.


Community

The community was always very motivated. Whatever people were interested in, they were ready to talk about and explore, especially what we didn't understand. Walking through the halls, you'd find artists sharing techniques, math enthusiasts proving formulae and coding, politically minded people having debates, and all teaching each other. The teachers were regularly included in such discussions, and were not afraid to say "I don't know". Communications are always open between the staff and parents, and many parents get involved through the Parents Guild. The Dragon has many school clubs are run by parents, and many events, like the school play, or the Art Cafe, where parents take active roles. While I'm not still in touch with all the alumni, I regularly see/speak to many from my year, whom I consider my best friends. I often visit the Dragon to catch up with all the students and teachers I miss.


School Location

The school location is excellent. It's a stone's throw from the St. George station. It's a few minutes' walk from UofT, and the ROM, both of which we've taken more than a few field trips to. There are lots of places nearby to grab food, and a few parks around, which are nice places to have lunch. It's also a short walk to Yorkville, on the other side of Avenue road. There are lots of nice places to eat, or relax, or just walk around, if you enjoy that as much as my friends and I do. We spent many a lunch and many a spare exploring the neighborhood, walking through Philosopher's Walk, going up and down Yonge, wandering the small streets. We rarely took the same path twice.


Admissions

I visited the school for a day, as I think anyone should. It will strike you as odd, walking into a school that looks like a house, and meeting a class that feels like a family. I could not have felt more welcome. I met every teacher and had class with a few. The students spoke to me like they knew me. By lunch time, I didn't feel like a visitor. I felt like I was already part of that family. At the end of the day, the principal, who was, and continues to be, one of the most caring and thoughtful people I know, sat down with me to discuss my day, and help me figure out if the school would be a good fit. It didn't take long. It fit me like a glove.


University placement and counselling

When it comes to university counselling, I cannot speak for everyone. There were students less certain than myself about where to apply. I took it upon myself to investigate post-secondary options on my own quite early. With ample time still, teachers took it upon themselves to inform me of options I missed, deadlines I should know about, and scholarships I might want to look into. Multiple teachers patiently worked with me through every iteration of all my applications to six different programs. External causes prevented me from getting into my first choice (the university had too many internal applicants), but I achieved my second choice with flying colours. I never felt a lack of support, as the teachers and guidance counselor were never more than an email away.


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