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Review of: The Dragon Academy

Leah Walker - Alumnus    (Apr 08, 2018)

Overall Experience

I attended the Dragon Academy from grades 11 to 12. Before Dragon, I had been at another private school for all of my life, and despite skipping a grade and consistently high marks all through elementary and middle school, my grade 10 year was miserable, and I was underachieving in nearly all of my classes. I switched to Dragon, and suddenly I loved school again. My marks went back up, and I remember my two years at Dragon as being some of the best of my life. The community is welcoming and dynamic, the teachers are knowledgeable and, due to the small class sizes, are able to engage with every student. Above all, Dragon cares about each student, academically as well as personally.


School Leadership

During my time at Dragon, the conduct expected of students was made clear from day one. However, Dragon did not handle problems within the school through typical approaches such as detentions (except in very rare cases) but rather through calm discussion with the students involved. In my experience, due to the close relationship between the students and teachers, there was a general attitude of not wanting to disappoint them or the principal, Dr. Fox. This fostered a feeling of respect, and kept typical high school drama, especially in the higher grades, to a minimum. Dragon's administration is always very open to talking to parents and handling any academic issues quickly, with an emphasis on finding ways to learn that work for the student.


Teaching

The Dragon Academy is a very small, close knit community, of which the teachers are an integral part of. They are all extremely knowledgeable in their fields and accessible to students. Since leaving Dragon I have completed a diploma in visual arts and am almost finished my first year of a publishing degree; in both fields I have been more than prepared for all my classes. Additionally, I feel it is important to emphasize that Dragon's unique approach to teaching prepares students for the lecture format of university and college classes. Dragon's heavy focus on class discussion has enabled me to approach lectures with confidence and a level of eloquence that I feel I otherwise would not have had.


Academics

I would describe the learning environment at Dragon as being similar to that of university. Dragon describes it as the Socratic method; in practice, this means emphasis on class discussion and projects. In the arts, for example, Dragon's annual Art Cafe event serves as a portion of the grade 12 art students' mark, requiring them to create a modern art style installation within the school that interests them and demonstrates their knowledge. I found that in participating in events such as this, that I learned far more than I would have if I had just studied the theory and written tests, rather than having the experience of planning and executing it in real life. There are equivalent events for STEM courses as well.


Extracurriculars

Due to Dragon's smaller size, there is not a surplus of extracurricular opportunities, as you might find at a large public school. However, the ones that are there are all well run and available to all students. I would like to highlight the Scientists in Action program that dragon runs, which periodically brings working researchers into the school (or allows the students to go to their places of work) and lets the students engage with them, after they give a small presentation on their work. They also provide the opportunity for students to volunteer in labs and university research settings, which is a rare and unique experience, as well as one that will stand out to potential employers in the future.


Students

Dragon has a very small but very diverse student body, with students with interests in all areas, ranging from mathematics to theater. The small class sizes are arguably one of the keys to Dragon's success--it allows for a much more involved and, as I have said before, close knit feeling in the community. There is lots of interaction between grades. While all of this can sometimes mean that small arguments between individuals have a larger impact on a class as a whole, it also allows them to be resolved quicker, as no one is afraid to go to a teacher for help or advice. It is not only expected but required that students learn to respect and work with each other.


School Life

I loved attending Dragon, and have spoken about it frequently since graduating. The small class sizes and the teachers' desire to help students succeed really helped me get back on my feet after doing so poorly at my previous school. It is hard to overstate how much my time there meant. I went from being a very shy and slightly awkward artist, to a confident and well rounded student, with interests in all different academic areas, ranging from politics to animation. I felt that the teachers really cared about my interests, and as such I was able to develop them much further than I had previously, and gain back a lot of the confidence I had lost at my previous school.


Community

I think Dragon's community spirit is best shown by the open house events. Many students stay late to help set up, and so many parents come that the building becomes crowded. There was always lots of student work on display--everything from films to art installations to robots, built by the small robotics club. One year while I was there the french class turned a classroom into a French cafe, complete with food, entertainment, and little awnings over the windows outside. There are open mic events, where students can sing, or read their writing aloud. Alumni are encouraged to attend as well. All of this is to say that the Dragon community is engaged and fun, and the students' success is always in the spotlight.


School Location

Being in downtown Toronto is definitely of benefit to Dragon. It is near the ROM, the AGO, U of T, OCAD, Ryerson, etc.. The school has a wide range of activities that involve these institutions, and there are frequent school-wide field trips all over the city. I spent both years at Dragon volunteering at Ryerson's school of Urban and Regional Planning, in a small research project, which I was connected to through Dragon's Scientists in Action program. There are cafes and cinemas nearby, which was always wonderful for after school fun with friends. Additionally, as someone who had never used public transit on their own prior to attending Dragon, commuting from Oakville helped me become much more independent and confident.


Admissions

The admission process at Dragon, in my experience, was very straightforward. I attended an open house at the school, where my parents and I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Fox, and then I spent a day at the school with my potential future classmates. I was able to speak with Dr. Fox over the course of that day a great deal, and by the end was able to tell that Dragon was the right fit for me; I filled out a brief application form in the following days. All the staff at Dragon are very open and welcome questions, making it easy for potential students and parents to decide if the school is right for them.


University placement and counselling

Dragon prepares students for university well, and does a wonderful job of providing students with volunteer opportunities so that they may meet their community service hours required to graduate. During my time at Dragon, the school provided me with a tutor to help me complete the infamous visual art portfolio required to apply to Sheridan College's prestigious animation program, and I am quite certain I would never have been organized enough to complete it without that extra help. Again, Dragon's smaller size allows for a very supportive and personal approach to the university application process. I do feel that during my time at the school, the process could have started earlier, but this did not have any substantial effect on my experience of it.


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