There is no real friendship until we share the personal experience of who we are. We cannot have both truth and love in our lives until we share our truth and love, until we speak from "I" and take responsibility. We must stop putting all our pain on "you", on the others in our lives. Until I take responsibility for my own mistakes, where I have stumbled and fallen, where I hurt and stop blaming my pain on others, I cannot know truth or love.

I have a friend. We have known each other for over 30 years. We have known each other across the continent. We have stood together in storms, never knowing if we would be safe. We have comforted each other through accidents, illness, fear and loss. We have held each other when our parents died.

I have loved him when he tried to hide and my words could not reach him. He has loved me when I felt unworthy of love. Because we dared to trust, to open our souls to each other, because we have broken to pieces in front of each other, we have the privilege of saying, as if for the first time,

“You are my friend.”

I look at him, after what for many is a lifetime, and we say, “Tell me your truth, share your love.” Let us sit closely together, more interested in huddling together than flying away.

Having a real friend, one with whom you can share your deepest fears and greatest joy, is a form of wealth that will bring you everything you need.

To find this kind of friend, we must be this kind of friend.


Caring for the Caretaker 5


What do you pour yourself into?

What is your service that also brings you strength?

What is your commitment?

What is your enthusiasm? (Enthusiasm, En Theos, to be one with divine energy)

When do you feel one with divine energy?

Take some private/quiet time and develop a “joy list.” A “joy list” is made up of people, places, and things that bring you joy.

Healthy, nurturing, joyful.

Your “joy list” combined with your daily affirmation, visualizations and meditation will become your primary resources to fuel your passion.

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Every day life offers us a variety of possibilities. The events that life offers are not in
our control. How we respond to those events is in our control. The events and our
response equals the outcome.

E + R = O

Haim Ginott had a wonderful reflective piece for all of us who are educators and parents. “I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized." –Haim Ginott

Another teacher, 2,500 years ago, put it quite simply.
“Reaction is the Supreme Art in Life.” -Buddha

Caring for the Caretaker 3

Tools to stay loose, flexible, creative, and
positive when we take ourselves too seriously

Draw the line: The last ten to fifteen minutes of the work day can be spent in quiet reflection or assessment, emotional showering, stress reduction or physical fitness activity or you could visit the “can do” room.

The “Can Do” Room: In every school I have worked in, I can find a room where all there is, are negative conversations. What’s wrong in the building? Who’s not doing their job? Complaints and moans. All too often, it is in the faculty lounge. I propose that the teaching staff or caring team create a “Can Do” room or at least a ”Can Do” time.

Only plus conversations: Speak only of what’s right with the building. Speak only of who’s doing a great job. Speak only of positive experiences. The room could be filled with human resource information, books, video and audio tapes, articles; anything on the courage, richness and joy of life and humanity. Also, be sure to include some materials, both written and visual, on laughter and humor. Norman Cousins, in his book “Anatomy of An Illness” taught us the healing power of laughter.

Mini Vacations: Learn to go on a mini-vacation. Everyday, any time of the day, we can escape and renew ourselves. Traditionally, there is prayer, meditation, or sharing your feelings with a trusted friend.

Touchstones: Keep handy little stones, shells or symbols of a loved one and/or a lovely time that returns when we hold the object. Jim Henson’s Fraggles believe that a pebble increases in value every time we pass it on. What can you pass on today?

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Today, in every school district, every home and every community I have visited, it gets tougher everyday. Many of us are tempted to repeat and enact the old adage,

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

If we constantly enact that belief system when the going gets tough, the result will be stress, tension, anger, bitterness and illness. Let’s practice a new twist on that old phrase by making it,

“When the going gets tough, the tough get loose.”

Loose being defined as a creative, flexible, and with “can do” attitude.

Caring for the Caretaker

The challenge for us in the caretaking profession is:

Is our personal glass 1/2 full or 1/2 empty?

While sitting on the Jersey shore, I read the following item in Newsweek that spoke to me of the challenges and the choices we face every day in the helping professions.

“What I am trying to get across is a sense of the dimension of the challenge without the exaggerated fears that often accompany it. Because either mankind is going to solve these problems, or mankind is going to cease to exist – it’s getting that stark. Now you can either get hopeless over that, or you can say, ‘Well, now, here’s an interesting challenge. How are we going to get through this one?’” We are invited everyday to get hopeless or to get active.

Our work is serious, life-saving and life-giving. We must continue to take our work seriously and we must learn to take ourselves lightly. We must learn to access joy in the face of adversity.

Uniting a School

Unity Day asks schools to identify 100 students and 10 staff who are willing to work on the very sensitive issues of bullying, racism, sexism, alcohol and drug use, and mental health concerns. Each school we work with will select a diverse group of students from different groups within the school to break down the walls of stereotypes and label, and create a unified community. We ask administration to select staff and students who want to address the “real” problems students face in a supportive year long process. Unity Day is much more than a one day commitment. Staff and students must commit to ongoing support group meetings to implement the plans created at Unity Day.

The greatest problems in our schools today are staff and students who are disconnected, lonely, and isolated. Throughout our Unity Day program we build connection, pro school bonding and genuine caring. We find that we are much more alike than we are different. We also come to a place where we respect and celebrate our differences. Throughout the day students and staff work in large and small group settings to teach each other and address the deepest concerns in their school. We learn we are not alone. We create a unified community.

Understanding Children Affected by Poverty

Poverty can be viewed from a variety of viewpoints; including financial, emotional, menta, spiritual and physical. Support systems, resources, relationships and role models play a critical role as intervening factors. Some key beliefs about poverty are:
  1. Poverty is relative
  2. Poverty occurs in all races
  3. Economic class is a continuous line not a clear cut distinction
  4. There is a difference between generational and situational poverty
  1. In the United states in 2001, poverty rates for all individuals was 11.7%, for children under the age of 18 the poverty rate was 16.3% and for children under the age of 6 the rate was 18.2%.
  2. There were 6.8 million poor families (9.2% in 2001, up from 6.4 million (6.7%) in 2000.
  3. The foreign-born population in the United States has increased 57% since 1990 to total 30 million. In 200 one of every five children under age 18 in the U.S. was estimated to have at least one foreign-born paren. Immigrant children are twice as likely to be poor as native-born children. Among Children whose parents work full time, immigrant children are at a greater risk of living in poverty than native-born children (National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, 2002).
  4. Regardless of race or ethnicity, poor children are much more likely than non-poor children to suffer developmental delay and damage, to drop out of high school and give birth during the teen years (Miranda, 1991).
  5. Poverty-prone children are more likely to be in single paren families (Einbinder, 1993). Median female wages in the United States, at all levels of educational attainment, are 30% to 50% lower than male wages at the same level of educational attainment (TSII Manual, 1995, based on U.S. Census data 1993).
  6. Poor inner-city youths are seven times more likely to be the victims of child abuse or neglect than are children of high social and economic status (Renchler, 1993).
  7. Poverty is caused by interrelated factors: parental employment status and earnings, family structure and parental education (Five Million Children, 1992).
  8. Children under age 6 remain particularly vulnerable to poverty. Children living in families with a female householder and no husband present experienced a poverty rate of 48.9% (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001).
  9. The United States' child poverty rate is substantially higher - often two or three times - than that of most other major Western industrialized nations.
How do we help children affected by poverty?
  • Identify the resources necessary to help students move from poverty to success
  • Practice a variety of intervention skills to assist students with discipline and academic achievement
  • Learn the role that language plays in poverty situations
  • Experience the hidden roles that exist in social structures
  • Learn the characteristics of generational poverty
  • Identify role models and support systems that schools can use as interventions

How Teachers Can Positively Influence Students

  • Establish healthy communication patterns. Put the emphasis on listening. Remember, we have two ears and only one mouth. We need to listen at least 50% of the time. Often Listening is the only assistance a child needs to help them solve a problem.
  • Teach respect by showing and modeling respect to students.
  • Teach trustworthiness as a core human value and an essential ingredient in character development.
  • Promote the behavior of responsibility. Remind students that they are 100% responsible for what they think, feel, say and do. Now one can make you think, feel, say or do anything.
  • Demonstrate moral character. Establish ground rules in the classroom. Teach a true sense of right and wrong.
  • Promote helping others and a service mentality. Assign yourself, don't wait. Encourage cross age tutoring. If something needs to be done, do it! Democracy is not a spectator sport. Get and stay involved.
  • Most importantly teach students to acknowledge the existence of problems. Encourage them to seek help from parents, other teachers and counselors when they have a concern.


Responding to Interventions

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a general education initiative which requires collaborative efforts from all district staff. In a quality educational environment, which focuses on the needs of the whole child, academic and behavioral needs are identified and monitored continuously. Student performance data is used to make instructional and intervention decisions. The process of identification and continuous monitoring are the foundation of a successful comprehensive system of early interventions. The success of all students is improved when instruction, behavioral goals and social emotional learning is frequently monitored.

Response to Intervention (RTI) provides high quality instruction and interventions matched to students’ needs. RTI uses specific descriptive, observable performance data over time to make appropriate educational decisions for the whole child. Differentiated instructional strategies for all students provide all learners with research based, classroom education and interventions that continuously measure students’ performance.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a comprehensive program that is geared toward the success of an entire district, as well as, the individual.

The essential components of RTI are addressed in a 3-tiered system:

Tier 1: Universal Interventions are for the needs of the entire student body. They are preventive proactive strategies implemented in to the culture of the school community.

Tier 2: Targeted Group Interventions are for a small number of at-risk students. These interventions must have a rapid response with high efficiency and effectiveness.

Tier 3: Intensive Individual Interventions are for individual students whose behavioral concerns require high intensity assessment based interventions of a longer duration.

Thom Stecher and Associates Programming

Tier 1:
Whole Child, Social Emotional Learning Planning Model is a comprehensive prevention and intervention services program that addresses district wide policy, programs and curriculum. This model allows the district to accurately assess their current strengths and shortcomings so they may actively build a plan for future development. This model addresses the needs of the entire community creating the consistency needed for achievement, safety and success.
Building a Classroom Community Staff Development Program is a hands-on workshop that gives concrete examples to teachers and administrators on how to build, maintain and enjoy a healthy, productive community. Based in Whole Child and Social, Emotional Learning philosophies, as well as, classroom management strategies, this course gives special consideration to Erikson’s stages of group development by leading participants through activities that are proven effective in moving us from the polite to the spirit stage of learning. This workshop is filled with research and helpful hints on making our schools and classrooms consistently safe, purposeful and inclusive.
Teaching the Individual: Utilizing Differentiated Instruction and Multiple Intelligences to Engage an Entire Classroom is an interactive workshop that focuses on providing strategies of identification and utilization to monopolize on the talents and learning styles of the individual student so they will perform to their highest level individual achievement.

Tier 2:
Newman Stecher International, with the funding and support of The Masonic Children’s Foundation, has created The Masonic Student Assistance Training Program. This research-based program has proven to effectively address the needs of our at-risk youth. This well organized program, which can be immediately implemented, offers an early intervention, life skills model that is has rapid response, high efficiency, problem-solving components. The life skills intervention is based in social emotional learning philosophies focusing on asset building to promote personal success. This program structures individual student intervention modifications that may include, but are not limited to, intensive mentoring, support groups, and behavioral modifications. These initial modifications are classroom based to aid the individual and benefit the entire classroom community.

Tier 3:
Masonic Student Assistance Training is structured to address the need of all at-risk students including the ones in greatest need. After being identified for initial classroom based modifications the student maybe identified as in need of a comprehensive individualized plan.

These multi disciplinary intervention plans are based in a thorough evaluation of academic, attendance, health and behavioral data. A specific plan is created to address each area of concern starting with the most severe. The plan focuses on asset building for the student through researched based intervention strategies. Teams are trained in how to utilize their resources to best fit the need of the individual by pulling on communal, parental and district wide assets.

Through the Masonic Student Assistance Program, Newman Stecher International offers a step-by-step guide on how to create, maintain and utilize a successful intervention program that addresses the 3 tiers of the RTI model. Newman Stecher International interfaces with RTI in its core concepts and purpose. These programs address RTI’s criteria of:

The Three Tier problem-solving model Scientific research based assessments. Problem identification Research based interventions Leadership and Core Team approach to intervention Parent involvement.


Empowering Students to Succeed

Respect, Responsibility, and Relationships. These are the essential 3 R’s for success in life. Since its inception in 1999, our Life Skills Conference has been transforming the lives of children through social and emotional life skills development.

Each moment a child lives is a new and unique moment in the world. A moment that never was before and will never be again. What do we teach our children in school? We teach them that 2+2 = 4 and that Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States.

We must also teach children of what they are capable. Our Life Skills Conference helps them realize that they are capable of greatness, that they are beautiful, and that they can experience self-fulfillment through service to others. Through our Masonic Student Assistance Program and through the LifeSkills Conference we teach them that they are unique. We tell them they are a marvel of creation. In the entire world there is no other person like them. We teach them to respect themselves and others. We teach them to respect diversity and welcome and appreciate differences. We teach them that responsibility and service are the rents we pay for the privilege of being alive and blessed to be in America. We also focus on developing healthy relationships. We spend significant time on what it means to be a healthy woman and a healthy man. We describe healthy relationships as those that contribute to the overall good of our society.

We help our participants set goals to make a positive impact back home in their schools, youth groups, houses of worship, and families. We ask our participants to stand up for values that enhance the world, such as respect, responsibility, and service to others.

“Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, s (he) sends forth a tiny ripple of hope…, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, s (he) sends forth a tiny ripple of hope…, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert F. Kennedy

For the past ten years, our program has taken place at the Pennsylvania Masonic Home, Patton Youth Campus. We believe it is the most beautiful setting in which we have ever worked. The program is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation. Because of the generosity of the masons, we accommodate 150 staff and students. Our program continues to grow each year.

We now have school districts in Pennsylvania sending staff and students to our conference. They have returned to their schools and developed successful mentor and advocacy programs that have positively impacted the whole school population.

“We do not realize that the things we do on a daily basis, such as saying “Hello” to someone, or even smiling at them, can make a difference to a person. We have the power and we have control, and we can change the world.” – Emily (2009 conference attendee)

LifeSkills Video

LifeSkills 2011 Registration


Accessing Education's Greatest Human Resource

In the political agenda to reform education, we have forgotten a great time proven truth: reform will not be achieved through standardized tests, teaching to the test, restructuring schools, privatizing schools, rewriting curriculum or standardizing curriculum, if we continue to oppress and repress teachers. The greatest human resource we have are teachers. It has always been true: from Jesus and Socrates to Rosa Parks and Helen Keller. There are no role models without teachers. Teachers must be freed of political harassment. Teacher must be allowed to help lead, structure and govern schools.

We must cherish the human heart. We must educate the whole child. We must return to our source, our teacher, for true reform.

Recognizing the essential role teachers have in educational reform, the Center for Whole Child Education offers graduate courses for school staff that address the most pressing issues in education. Our talented professors work with school districts across the country and have created courses that draw from the strategies, research, and experience of talented educators.

These diverse courses focus on the integration and effective utilization of experiential, social and emotional learning. The courses will assist in the creation of school and classroom environments that foster individual success and communal achievement.

Acknowledging that educator's time is precious, we offer conveniently located weekend and summer courses that provide three Neumann University graduate credits and 90 hours of Act 48 hours through CCIU. Courses are led by two professors to better meet the educational goals of all participants and ensure individualized collaboration. The cost of each course is $700.

Our courses are uniquely designed to be practical with strategies and activities that can be implemented into your classroom or school. They will leave you energized with a fresh perspective and renewed sense of passion. Please check out our course descriptions and schedule at http://www.thomstecher.com/gc-coursedesc.asp.

Mission Critical: Knowledge AND Character

“There is no significant learning without a significant relationship.” Dr. James Comer

We are at a very critical time in american education. Today’s educators are under oppressive pressure to have our children perform on standardized tests. Administrators, teachers and students are feeling the pressure, burden and disconnect of “teaching to the test”.

The pressure from politicians to drive up test scores is not for the benefit of children or education. We have lost our way. We have lost sight of the original goal of education. The purpose of public education was to create a knowledgeable citizen that would contribute to and serve our society. Knowledge and service. Teaching to the test may document some knowledge gained but sacrifices time needed for character development. Knowledge without character is dangerous.

“With 1 out of every 100 Americans - more than 2.3 million - now behind bars, the United States imprisons far more people - both proportionally and absolutely - than any other county in the world, including China. Representing only 5% of the worlds’s population, America has 25% of the worlds inmates.” (Darling-Hammond)

Academic success must be linked with social emotional learning. Whole Child Education (character development, social emotional learning) asks us to look differently at the stresses of standardized tests and challenges us to look at the qualities of a successful school: behaviorally, socially and, of course, academically.

Whole Child education promotes a positive school climate that allows and encourages students and faculty to think creatively, deeply and passionately. It promotes a team atmosphere where the success of the individual is a shared endeavor and is as important as the success of the whole.

Whole Child education produces responsible and resourceful students that are willing and able to take on the challenges offered by their teachers, peers and families. It also produces teachers that feel supported and empowered by their administration.

By the nature of their populations, schools are social environments and human teaching for human learning is social and emotional. Research, which can be found at www.casel.org, proves that schools are most successful when they integrate the learners social, emotional and academic needs.

“Satisfying the social and emotional needs of students does more that prepare them to learn. It actually increases their capacity for learning. Social and emotional learning has been shown to increase mastery of subject material, motivation to learn, commitment to school and time devoted to schoolwork. It also improves attendance, graduation rates and prospects for constructive employment while at the same time reducing suspensions, expulsions and grade retention.” (Hawkins et al., 1999; Malecki and Elliott, 2002)

We must focus on the integration of academics with social emotional learning. Knowledge without character is a head without a heart. Human history is replete with examples of great intellect causing great damage because it lacked heart.


Raised in a family of educators, I believe that education is a life-long process and that we all teach best what we most need to learn. It is therefore imperative that we teach each other. My own unique life experiences have inspired, challenged and motivated me to specialize in the areas of self-esteem, wellness and student assistance programs.

As a parent of three special needs children labeled gifted, dyslexic and ‘profoundly retarded’, I have learned how to recognize, appreciate and admire the individual talents of my own children while addressing their special needs and gifts. My personal experiences of providing support, care and encouragement to my own children is not unlike what other parents and educators do on a daily basis.

I know that we cannot learn or succeed on our own. Therefore, I celebrate the importance of the school community in the development of each student and each parent. Through the work of Thom Stecher and Associates, I strive to refocus the educational community on what is important - each other.

To this end, I have dedicated my life to creating educationally-sound, motivating, engaging leadership opportunities for students, educators and parents based upon James Comer’s statement: There is no significant learning without significant relationships.

Together, we can build healthy communities where we grow as instruments for positive change.