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Haverford School: Building Emotionally Responsive Boys

The Haverford School is known for its leading-edge academics, arts, and athletics programs, but perhaps what is less well-known – but equally important – is the social and emotional learning the boys undertake in every grade. In a culture and society that all too often encourages boys to define themselves through physical toughness and bravado, The Haverford School teaches boys that true toughness is grounded in compassion, empathy, curiosity, and care.

From pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, Haverford boys spend time focusing on their emotional skills. They are encouraged to take risks, be vulnerable, and have courage; they are also expected to support others by providing encouragement to their peers. The deep, lasting relationships the boys establish on campus with their peers and teachers create a sense of belonging and trust that allows students to step outside their comfort zones.

“Each year at Haverford, we select a Virtue of the Year from our 24 Core Virtues,” explains Haverford’s Head of School Tyler Casertano. “This year, courage was chosen, as it allows our boys to embrace vulnerability inherent to learning and growth as a person, a scholar, an artist, an athlete, and a friend.

The youngest students use a research-based learning program called Second Step, which is designed to improve the boys’ social and emotional skills through developing understanding of their own feelings, emotional regulation, and compassion for others. These skills are used both in the classroom, on the recess field, and at home. Resources provided to families encourage this learning at home.

The Middle School’s Fords Focus Days challenge boys to consider ways in which they can impact their community.. These out-of-classroom days offer students the opportunity to study real-world problems impacting people locally and abroad. Not only do they learn how they can improve their communities, but they also practice empathy and kindness. Learning to consider others’ perspectives and experiences helps them build and maintain healthy and strong relationships with others. In the Middle School, boys also begin participating in Reflections, assemblies during which members of the community speak on topics of their choice. The speaker experiences vulnerability, as Reflection speeches are often on topics that have impacted their lives or perspectives. The audience of boys in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade allow—and encourage—vulnerability. They celebrate the courage of the speaker.

The Upper School boys also engage in the Reflection program with the same speaker–audience relationship, providing boys with a deeper understanding of their peers’ experience. Upper School Peer Counseling offers boys a confidential space to discuss their problems. With the help and support of Upper School counselors, boys in Peer Counseling practice deep listening, offering encouragement and empathy to their peers while they discuss their concerns.

The Haverford School’s program transforms boys into men who will impact the world. Join us for a tour of campus to see how your son could succeed at Haverford.

On Oct. 4, guest speaker Richard Reeves addressed the Centennial Hall crowd in a lecture titled “Solving the Crisis of Boys and Men.” Author of The Haverford School faculty and staff 2023 summer reading Of Boys and Men, Reeves also serves as President of the American Institute for Boys and Men. To learn more about the lecture, visit our website:

To learn more about The Haverford School and events on campus visit

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