Magazine article Times Higher Education

Ice Hockey Leads to Thaw towards the Classics

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Ice Hockey Leads to Thaw towards the Classics

Article excerpt

Class waiting list for professor who uses sport as a teaching aid. Jon Marcus reports from Canada

With his bifocals teetering at the end of his nose, his face fringed by white hair and a white beard, Michael Kennedy seems the quintessential English literature professor. He even keeps tabs on the time with a pocket watch.

But there's something very different about his class at the University of Saskatchewan, in west-central Canada, that is evident as soon as he begins it with a recap of the local sport scores, including the university ice hockey team's win against a rival, the University of British Columbia.

Ice hockey, Canada's official winter sport, is the conduit through which Professor Kennedy teaches this course, entitled "hockey in Canadian literature". It is an example of how to reach otherwise reluctant students through something that they are already enthusiastic about.

"The vehicle of hockey really opens the door for many people who would otherwise say, 'Whoa, an English class,'" says Professor Kennedy. "If they didn't like English in high school, this makes it interesting for them. It's common ground."

It is also clearly fun for Professor Kennedy, a one-time sports journalist who never misses a home game involving the university hockey team, was named fan of the year in 2006-07, and wrote a book about the history of University of Saskatchewan hockey that was shortlisted in the people's choice division of the Saskatchewan Book Awards.

"I keep finding joy in what I do," says Professor Kennedy. "That's what keeps me teaching. My students say to me, 'You really like doing this', and I think, 'My god, what are the other professors like? …

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