Saturday, December 03, 2011

Debbie Downer

At least I think that's what it was called, an 90s or so SNL skit thing where one of the actors was always responding to whatever with a big negative comment, followed by that whaaa whaaa trombone (or trumpet?) sound.

Now that our semester is over, I'd like to express my gratitude towards the Northwoods students I usually teach, all of whom are far too polite to ever say really negative things about the literature I teach to my face. I'm sure they sometimes say negative things elsewhere, but not to my face. Or if they do, they acknowledge that they're afraid of the literature, that it's not easy, or that they've had difficulty in the past. (Yes, they complain about things being too hard a fair bit, but not abou every single thing. And that's usually first year students, so not in lit classes.)

Why my gratitude? Because I had one Debbie Downer student this semester, and boy was it a drag. If I had the same proportion of downer students every semester, I'd want to do violent things likely to get me arrested.

Partly this is because I really enjoy this lit and so it's a bit of an affront for a student to say that Beowulf doesn't make any sense and they hate it, or Lear is boring.

Mr Downer also tended to interrupt a lot, often with some question only vaguely related. For example, we'd be discussing the fool in Lear, and Mr Downer would raise his hand insistently and at the same time, blurt out, "When is the final again?"

I'm sure Mr Downer will be as happy to go his way and not have to do with me, and I am to go my way and not have to do with him.

In contrast, I had another student who revealed once that he'd really disliked PL before because he couldn't make heads nor tails of what was happening. So I focused some attention on strategies for reading Milton, and Mr NotDowner seemed to start liking Milton a fair bit.

So, Mr Downer, here's to you! Have a wonderful life away from me!


  1. I'll join you in hoisting a glass to DD to get away from you! Seriously, no one likes a DD. If I get an irrelevant question like "when is the final?" in the midst of an impassioned discussion, DD gets a long, cold Glare of Death.

  2. If I recall correctly, my high school American history teacher had a sign above his door over the lintel. It said something like, "All students give me pleasure. Some by entering the classroom, others by exiting."

    Or perhaps I just read about it and transplanted that memory into my brain, because it's the kind of thing my HS history teachers would have put over their doors.