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Non-Traditional Student Develops Self-Defense Curriculum for 8th Graders

November 23, 2016

Category: Academics, Events, Students, Teacher Education


ChadSpringer.JPGChad Springer is a non-traditional student in every sense of the word. And, the chances are very good that when he lands a job as a physical education teacher after graduating from Catawba College, his teaching style will be as well.

This 30-year-old teacher education student spent five years on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps before he enrolled at Catawba. He’s using his post 9-11 GI Bill to pursue his goal of preparing to be teacher. This seems an unlikely path for an ex-Marine until you meet Chad Springer in person and watch him interact with students.

“Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional athlete, but then I realized I wouldn’t be tall enough.  So I decided to inspire students to be better themselves, regardless of whatever obstacles are put in front of them.”

This semester to successfully complete his Teaching Methods Seminar (PER 3759) course, Springer spent five weeks at West Rowan Middle School teaching a unit of self-defense classes to eighth graders. It was a curriculum he created and adapted for middle school, based on skills he developed in the Marine Corps.  And, he proudly adds, the material he created for this class meets NASPE Content Standards and North Carolina Essential Standards. Student objectives tap psychomotor, cognitive, and affective skills, and assessments of each are built into his five lesson plans.

“I wanted to give them real world skills and these are not traditional.  I wanted them to have basic skills.  None of the students have previous experience and all are starting out at the same level and increase their skills together over time.

“I’m trying to get them out of the mindset that it’s a karate class.  It’s self-defense, and self-defense is when you have to defend yourself as a last resort.  All I ask is that they try and try to remember.  I give them exit surveys and a baseline assessment to test their skills.”

Springer’s students arrive early, at 7:35 a.m., on five consecutive Thursdays to spend 45 minutes learning self-defense techniques.  They arrive with a lot of laughter and self-conscious giggling as the students work in pairs to master only a self-defense move or two each week.  These moves include elbow strikes, vertical knee strikes, lower body strikes, and knee kicks.

IMG_3653.JPGEach of these moves is learned in sequence using a partner and a pad for protection.  There are cue words that drive the learning such as “Action,” “Raise,” and “Foot.”  The instructions are simple, Springer’s prompts are encouraging, and the students seem to remember and execute accordingly.

By their random comments at the end of one class, it seems these eighth graders do understand why and what they’re learning.

Here are some of their collective thoughts on this new self-defense instruction they are receiving:

“More girls are getting bullied.” “Guys try to take advantage of you.” “I’m stronger than I thought.”   “You can be a strong independent woman with self-defense.” “Do it, you might like it.” “It’s just to protect yourself, not actually to fight.”

Springer, the soon-to-be teacher, adds: “Self-defense or any kind of martial arts is a confidence builder.  They get to know a set of skills.  I have developed two different lesson plans for each class to be inclusive of all of the students so those with special needs can also participate and gain confidence.  As long as they try, they can do anything.”

Springer, who serves as president of the Student North Carolina Association of Educators (SNCAE) chapter on Catawba’s campus, says his goal as a future physical education teacher is not to force students to do something, but rather to have them “want to do it.”

In an odd twist, this college student who admits he was not a very good student in middle and high school, says he is at Catawba “to get an education and to lead.”

“I love leading.  I love setting that standard with my peers. Whether I need to push them or pull them, I don’t mind.”

Springer expects to graduate in May of 2018 and hopes to teach at the high school level and perhaps coach football.

Dr. Tanjian Liang, an assistant professor of Health and Physical Education at Catawba, is supervising Springer’s methods course.