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Martial arts classes give Harlem students social chops
Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 7:05 am
by IDMA Editor

Harlem School District teachers and school administrators say the integration of tae kwon do has paid dividends for students’ personal development.

The district’s 2-year-old martial arts program is designed to cater to students with special behavioral needs, such as those with autism or attention-deficit disorder.

Teacher Katie Timmons was doubtful of the program when it was introduced by Superintendent Julie Morris and Caroline Pate-Hefty, director of special education. She is a believer now.

“When we first started this program, I was rolling my eyes thinking, ‘We already have kids with behavior issues and now we’re going to teach them tae kwon do?’ ” Timmons said.

But she has never seen the martial arts skills they’ve learned used in a threatening way, she said.

“They can focus longer. They can sit and do academic work much calmer than they could before they started this,” Timmons said. “Everything about them has (improved): They’re calmer, not as fidgety or moving all the time. Their social skills have increased. It’s really quite amazing.”

The eight-student class of first- through third-graders gave a demonstration before the Harlem School Board on Tuesday led by Master Tae Eun Ha, whose academy is inside Carlson Ice Arena. Students travel to the academy to take the class once a week.

“The concepts of tae kwon do are respect and focus,” Morris said. “It’s a great opportunity for a group of children who we want to help succeed. It’s special for them. It’s something they can succeed in, and it has great ripple effects in their academic environment.”

The district would like to try to expand the service to fourth- through sixth-graders, Pate-Hefty said. First teachers and Ha will observe students to make sure they’re a good match for the program, she said.

“It’s not just about knowing the moves. It’s about a whole life attitude,” Timmons said. “Everything is predicated on respect. The only rule I have in my classroom is respect because if you respect yourself, others and property, you’ve met all the rules.”



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