North Toronto is an amazing school. No one needs to be reminded of that. We are one of the most sought-after placements in the TDSB, turning down hundreds of Optional
Attendance applicants every year. We have a reputation for very strong
academics, and are known as a “smart school”. So, I thought I would do a little
investigating to compare the transition from grade eight to nine across
different school destinations. Going into this, I had expected it to be confirmed
that NT was academically harder, had a larger workload, and had more school
spirit than the others. I found that while this is true, some other students
see their own schools similarly.
In order to get a better understanding of how the grade nine experience plays out, I talked to other people I knew who had just started grade nine this year. I asked students at Etobicoke School of the Arts, Rosedale School of the Arts, Humberside Collegiate
Institute, Bloor Collegiate Institute (TOPS Program of Math and Science),
Northern Secondary School (Gifted Program), Ursula Franklin Academy, and St.
Roberts Catholic High School (IB Program) about the difficulty of tests and
assignments, how homework has changed, teacher engagement, and school spirit, among other things.
Almost every student I talked to said there was more homework than last year. The only major variation in quantity and difficulty of homework was found in Art School students, who said that homework had stayed the same, or gotten easier since the previous year. One art student said that at Etobicoke School of the Arts, “your major comes first, it’s that simple”, and that teachers “at certain times of the year give students the extra slack needed for them to succeed” at their art focus. In terms of assignments, one student at Northern S.S. replied that there is now a “higher level of thinking, with more demanding and in-depth questions, but also some assignments are merely tedious.” This observation was echoed in the comments of others.
The Art School students said more vociferously than any other group that their teachers are “more engaged, knowledgeable, and generally supportive this year”. That isn’t to say that other teachers are less engaged, but at St. Roberts, said one student, “[teachers] seem more impersonal. There’re just as friendly and helpful but they seem to care less [than last year].” Other students said their teachers “vary”.
While I would like to say that North Toronto trumped every other school in terms of perceived school spirit, Humberside C.I. seems to be very comparable; “We support all of our sports teams immensely, and have several events throughout the year to fundraise for the school. Any assemblies we have are always very entertaining to watch, and our concerts are spectacular. The school sings the school song and our cheer whenever all grades are gathered,” a student at Humberside explained. This type of school spirit seems rare though; a student at St. Roberts said, “There is school spirit
occasionally demonstrated in our school but mainly for the purposes of our own comfort, not for the sake of school spirit”. At Rosedale School of the Arts, “not much
happens that involves school spirit…it’s not discussed much.”
Overall opinion of grade nine? “I can’t complain. It’s been treating me well”, said a student at Ursula Franklin Academy. “It’s difficult, but fun and rewarding”, adds a student at Bloor C.I.’s TOPS program. The overall consensus of the grade nine experience is summed up perfectly by a student at St. Roberts, “High school’s been great and everyone’s so much more chill than I expected. It’s very different from what
you hear from siblings or friends and something you really have to experience.”
North Toronto is the right school for us. We love NT for all the right reasons, but other students love their own high schools too. Every student made a choice about which high school he or she wanted to attend, so it would have been surprising if everyone didn’t embrace his or her choice– its human nature.