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The Power of Opting-in at The Haverford School

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By Head of School Tyler Casertano

At certain points of every school year, students, faculty, and administration at The Haverford School take stock of all that has been accomplished thus far and reflect on how we can build on our progress to make our curriculum and community as successful as possible.

A focus at The Haverford School this year has been on relationships and culture; strengthening the connections between our students, between our students and faculty, and between our students and our program. When these connections are strong, we deepen the boys’ understanding of who we are as a community and what that community requires of them.

What does the community require of them? How can they strengthen these relationships? The answer to both is at the heart of the School’s identity and culture; there is a deep institutional belief in “and” rather than “or.”

At Haverford, we believe that boys can—and should—be scholars and artists and athletes. We deliver holistic education through a program that is rigorous and supportive, broad and deep, community-based and tailored to individual needs. Within this program, we teach our boys to be sensitive and resilient, competitive and compassionate, ambitious and empathetic, confident and humble. We teach them to think critically and creatively, to work hard and to laugh, and to pursue their best selves and the common good. This belief in “and” extends to our faculty, who recognize our boys for who they are and challenge them to become who they can be, allowing our boys to feel known, loved, supported, and pushed in reaching their full potential.

In a world that all too often drives our students to see themselves and the world in narrow, one-dimensional ways, this belief in “and” helps them see themselves, others, and the world in nuanced, multidimensional ways. That multifaceted lens allows them to leave Haverford with a fuller understanding of who they are and who they can be, and with a dynamic and resilient skill set that will prepare them for success in an ever-changing and increasingly complex world.

That focus on “and,” though, demands a great deal from them. It asks them every day to step outside of their comfort zones, to push themselves beyond their perceptions of their limits, and take off the masks that boys so often hide behind. It asks that they never settle, but rather continue to shed their skin and grow new, more evolved ones. For boys, accomplishing that requires deep relationships and a culture that provides them with the courage, energy, and joy to take on those challenges.

Stepping on the stage of Centennial Hall, overcoming the struggles of learning to read, embracing the inherent discomfort of growing from who you are into who you can be take the encouragement of trusted adults and peers, and takes a culture where boys, even only months into their Haverford journey, feel a sense of gratitude for being a part of something larger than themselves. Only through these relationships and this culture can we tell our boys that we believe in them and that they should believe in themselves.

This year, Haverford cultivates these relationships and this culture by bringing our students and faculty together in new and thoughtful ways. The School enhanced our student programming in the Upper School, which provides our students with opportunities to come together off campus at the start of the year. The Middle School reignited its House Program, which assigns our students and faculty to smaller “houses” that compete over the course of the year in a variety of settings. The Lower School amplified its buddy program, which pairs older Lower School boys with younger students and provides time for them to get together each month.

During the World Cup, the first ever to take place during the school year, every boy in the School was assigned to a team, creating opportunities for older students to teach younger students about a country’s culture and history. The student and faculty Reflections program in the Upper School was expanded, providing more occasions for students and faculty to share their experiences with the community, and introducing that tradition to the Middle School.

Additionally, the School has implemented a formal social and emotional learning curriculum to our youngest students, helping them to develop the social and emotional awareness and regulation to form the meaningful relationships that will allow them to flourish at Haverford and beyond.

While the output of those efforts can be seen through academic accomplishments, artistic achievements, and athletic championships, the cumulative output is felt more acutely and powerfully every day through the collective energy and engagement on campus; the joyfulness, focus, authenticity, vulnerability, sacrifice, and growth from our faculty and our students that allow each and every one of us to take meaningful steps every day toward becoming our best selves.

Tyler Casertano is in his second year as Head of School at The Haverford School. Learn more about The Haverford School at

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