SALISBURY TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT
Nationally recognized motivational speaker Thom Stecher, of Malvern, attended the Salisbury Township School District convocation to provide an inspirational talk to the administrators, teachers and staff Aug. 21 about the importance of relationships and connections with students and their significance to learning — the theme of the upcoming school year.
Stecher quoted Dr. James P. Comer, currently the Maurice Falk professor of child psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center since 1976. Comer is also an associate dean at the Yale School of Medicine. His quote, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship,” was the theme of the presentation with Stecher emphasizing the importance of the relationship between students and school district staff.
“Are children trying to survive here?” Stecher asked the audience. A resounding “yes” was heard throughout the auditorium at Salisbury High School.
Casandra Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation — Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. Stecher quoted Brown as saying, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives and without it, there is suffering.”
Stecher said connection is essential to health, well-being and growth. He shared stories of his journey with his wife of 47 years, Sandra, his 37-year-old son labeled as “gifted” in school, his 36-year-old daughter labeled “severely retarded” at birth and his 33-year-old son labeled dyslexic. His life experiences, combined with over 40 years in education, helped administrators, educators and staff relate to situations personally and within the district.
“Who is that student who will come here next week who needs your heart, spirit or emotional safety?” Stecher asked.
Stecher noted three dispositions of children teachers and staff will meet: those showing persistence, curiosity and risk takers. He said you want the students who are persistent so they follow their dreams. “That’s what I want for the children,” Stecher said. He said the curious students may not have the social skills they need. The risk taker is entrepreneurial, has a mission, vision and values. Stecher said sometimes they make trouble by taking risks. “The cellphone could not be created without risk takers,” he said. “It all starts with vulnerability.”
Stecher said we all take risks, driving, childbirth, death, letting go of a relationship, saying goodbye to a lifestyle. He quoted Brown again, who said, “Human vulnerability is the birthplace of human greatness.”
He told the story of former American politician, television host, radio DJ and motivational speaker Les Brown. He and his twin brother were adopted at a young age. When he was in fifth grade, Brown was labeled mentally slow and a misfit. Brown credits a teacher and his adoptive mother for making a difference in his life and seeing the potential in him.
Stecher said children in pain can’t come to teachers or staff, they have to go to that child. He said teachers need to help children discover their core values.
Several breakout sessions gave everyone in attendance an opportunity to talk about their own core values.
Stecher told everyone in attendance “We must close the human gap. We need to stop punishing children because we don’t like their parents or their background. If we want the world to be compassionate, we must become compassionate.”
Returning to connection, Stecher ended with Ubuntu, which became known in the West largely through the writings of Desmond Tutu, the archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa.
“Ubuntu speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself. You are connected and what you do affects the whole world,” Tutu said.
Stecher encouraged everyone in attendance to be tolerant and accepting.
“Think of your students who have the greatest need,” Stecher said. “Every person has value. You are the one day that makes something happen.”