What is a keener?

For today’s vocabulary I’d like to take you back to the classrooms of the Canadian schools of my youth, and introduce to you the terms keener and slacker.



Bert sat in the front row and kept raising his hand to answer all the teacher’s questions. He gets all As on his report card every term. What a keener!


Keener is a Canadian slang term to refer to someone who is keen (eager) to learn – that is, to someone who studies hard in school and works diligently to get good marks. Having attended elementary and high school in Canada (I was born in Montreal, Quebec and went to school in Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario), keener is a term that I heard quite frequently during classes, though not always in reference to myself!

While people generally respect people who work hard and try to do well in school, calling someone a keener is not usually a compliment… sometimes keeners go too far when it comes to doing well in school, brown-nosing (sucking up to, or attempting to impress) their teachers, and generally annoying the rest of the class with their continuous attempts to show off what they know about a subject.



Bruno skipped two classes and fell asleep during his third class. He’s a total slacker!


A slacker is the opposite of a keener – while a keener endeavors to succeed in class and achieve top marks, a slacker could care less about their grades and would rather lie about than try to succeed. Slackers don’t work very hard, preferring to sleep in instead of going to class or play video games instead of doing their homework. Generally it’s not a good idea to be a slacker – slacking tends to catch up with you, and the more you slack, the further behind you’ll find yourself.

Note that slacker is not strictly a Canadian term… it gets used almost everywhere people speak the English language. It turns out that there are a great number of slackers in the world!

Front row keeners and back row slackers

In a classroom there may be five rows of desks; one row at the very front of the classroom, three rows in the middle of the classroom, and then one row at the very back. The people who sit in the front row might be the front row keeners… they’re the ones who want to sit as close as they can to the blackboard to listen to every word their teacher says, raise their hands to answer all the questions the teacher asks, and write down a lot of notes. The people sitting at the back of the classroom might be the back row slackers. They’re not in school to learn – they might be there because they’re forced to be there, or maybe to pick up dates! They might be doodling (drawing) in the margins of their textbooks, texting with their friends, or taking a nap.

So tell me… are you a keener or a slacker?

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About the Author

Website: Brian Crawford
I'm a Canadian and British dual citizen with an internationally-focused American MBA and an MS in International Project Management from a French business school. I am PMP, ScrumMaster, and ITIL Foundation certified. I'm particularly into travel, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures.