It was a couple of months in to the new school year, I had just turned 17, it was the beginning of my third year in high school, and my second year at George S. Henry in Toronto, Canada. Needless to say, I didn't really care for school, I was more interested in skipping classes or causing trouble which got me kicked out of school in November of 1989. You can imagine how furious my parents were with me and they were not sure how I was going to continue my education. My parents' first thought was to send me away to boarding school in London, England. Then they thought maybe an all-girls, boarding school just outside Toronto. Finally, my Mom found this special school in downtown Toronto called Thornton Hall Senior Private School. All I have to say is, this school forever changed me. I not only fell in love with learning, but also looked forward to going to school everyday, and was able to graduate in the top 15th percentile in Toronto with an opportunity for a partial scholarship at York University. How was this change possible? Well, it's all thanks to an amazing teacher, Miss Greig and her Liberal Arts curriculum.
Upon starting Thornton Hall, Miss Greig did assess my IQ and what I was passionate about. She did this for every student. This was so important to what was going to define my curriculum for the success of my education. (I feel if more schools took the time to assess students at the high school level prior to starting, it could help to create a more specific curriculum for them and better prepare them for University). Regardless, on January 2nd, 1990 I entered into a world of Socrates, Michelangelo, Joseph Campbell, Keats, Ancient Egyptian religion, and Fine Art, along with basic subjects such as English, Biology, and French. Everyday, Monday through Friday, Thornton Hall students were transported into the fascinating worlds of these great artists and thinkers, listening, taking notes, debating, and creating art about the history of the world and all it's different cultures.
The one subject everyone had to take no matter your level of proficiency, age, or whether or not you wanted to, was Fine Art. Art was the foundation of this school and Miss Greig was some how able to produce the most incredible artists out of her students. The reason Art was and is so important, is that it promotes brain activity, can help people understand other subjects such as math, geography, science, and even languages more clearly, it helps to develop self-esteem, self-discipline, cooperation, and self-motivation, and finally it gives people the tools necessary for understanding human experience, adapting to and respecting others' ways of thinking, develop creative problem-solving skills, and communicating thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways.
Along with Fine Art, regardless if you were taking Math, Science, Computer Science, etc, you were also taking Art History, Modern Western Civilizations, Classical Civilizations, Philosophy, Literature, and World Religions. Miss Greig felt that no matter if you were going to continue on to University to get your Law degree, Medical degree or the like, that the "interrelatedness of all subjects within the history of humankind through the use of mythological themes and Jungian archetypes was the best approach to understanding the human experience across classifications, time and space."*
It was not only the subjects we were being taught, but also how we were being taught was also crucial. The best example of this is through Miss Greig's own notes on how to write, what paper to write on, with very specific pens and materials, and to organize our note taking in a very precise manner.
Finally, we were also taught basic morals and values with regards to respecting authority and fellow students, and how to conduct and present ourselves. First and foremost, no matter when or which room Miss Greig walked into, the room went dead silent and the boys stood up out of respect. Nothing made you learn and understand the importance of being quiet and respectful than this moment. Some may call it old-fashioned, but sometimes its old-fashion ways like this that teach young people the value of respect. School started promptly at 9AM. If you came to school and your first period was in the studio with Miss Greig, and you were arriving after she was already in the studio, you better have a good excuse to be accepted at school that day and not sent home. There were definitely a couple of times when I was late and the feeling of terror that went through my body knowing I had to face Miss Grieg, you can't imagine, but you learned quickly not to ever be late. Your uniform had to be clean, shoes polished, shirt tucked in, hair always clean cut or for girls, pulled back, so you had to look impeccable at all times. This may sound very intense, but it's something that you carry for the rest of your life, because upon maturing you understand even more why all of this was so important.
Thornton Hall closed it's doors in 1997 after 48 years of incredible, memorable educational experiences for so many. Miss Greig and her husband Mr. Mackey decided to retire and shortly thereafter the special school at 241 Popular Plains road was demolished and a new residential development was built.
...for one brief shining moment, there was a spot called Camelot... We will never forget.
A special thanks to the site Cavecybernation.com for keeping the memories alive.
Follow Robyn N. Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/missro