Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Your Knowledge of Rhetoric Can Help You Succeed During Finals Week


I am sure most of you are familiar with the term “persona” by now, but here is a little refresher: In the past, persona was used to describe a mask worn in theatrical performances. These guises were used to portray a specific character or mood. Flash-forward several hundred years, and the definition of persona still maintains much of the theatrical backbone as it did historically. Our textbook Rhetoric in Civic Life, defines persona as: “…the character, role, identity, authority, and image a rhetor constructs and performs during a rhetorical act” (Palczewski 150). At this point, you are probably wondering: How does this have anything to do with finals? Well, let me explain.

            Let’s take a jab at the historical definition of a persona. Think of yourself as an actor/actress, and finals week is your performance. Finals week requires a different kind of persona; you need to choose the correct “mask” to wear in order to succeed. Now this can be taken two different ways – literally and theoretically. Obviously nobody is going to go out and buy a theatrical mask to wear around finals week, but I do something of the sort, personally. Whenever I have an important test, I wear my favorite red polo hat that I have denoted as my “thinking cap.” Call me superstitious, but it works, and that finite sense of security can make all the difference in the world. I’m not suggesting you do the same, but perhaps find something along the same lines and try it out for yourself. In the more figurative sense, the right “mask” can be synonymous with the right mindset. It may be cliché to say, but if you put yourself in the right mindset to succeed, more often than not you will.  This leads us into the rhetorical definition, in which there are 5 major elements:

1. Character

Character, to sum things up, is the feeling a trust an audience has toward a rhetor. In the case of finals, you are your own audience. Nobody else is watching you, and you have to learn to “trust” yourself.

2. Role

Throughout the day, everybody takes on a variety of roles, whether that may be the role of student, friend, employee, and so on. During finals week, your primary focus should be on the role of student.

3. Identity

For the majority of us, this is our first go at college finals. Throughout the next few weeks, each of us will be constructing an identity that could very well stick with us through the rest of our college careers: “People’s identities are not fixed, but developed throughout the choices they make” (Palczewski 160). Do not let your “finals week identity” be hindered by poor decisions. Learn how to prepare well now, and it will carry on with you into the future.

4. Authority

In rhetoric, this is “a rhetor’s possession of socially recognized power” (Palczewski 163). To relate this to finals week: take command of your success, and go into finals week with an aggressive attitude. You should be excited to prove to the teacher what you know, rather than scared about what you don’t.

5. Image

Ever heard of the saying “dress for success”? If so, try it some time. Half the battle is feeling good about yourself. Just like a rhetor enters a speech dressed in proper attire, a successful student enters a test in the same way. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit/dress to each final exam, after all, it’s all about confidence and putting yourself in the right mindset.

            To wrap things up, I thought I might share with you my top five ways of relieving stress during finals week:

5. Make a task list

This may seem like an obvious “duh,” but in reality, it really does help. If anything, it puts all of the things you have floating around in that brain of yours in physical form, and helps put things in perspective. There is no better feeling than crossing off an item on that finals week checklist.

4. Study with friends

If you have a class with a personal friend, study for the final exam with them! Chances are both of you will be good at something the other is not, which can be highly beneficial. If nothing else, it’s always nice to know that you are not the only one suffering through the week.

3. Listen to music

This doesn’t even have to be while you are studying. Personally, I have troubles focusing on homework and listening to music at the same time. However, I always crank some Jack Johnson whenever I am on a study break, and it helps. A lot.  

2. Keep your study area clean

A clean workspace equals a clean mind. Organize your books and binders to your liking, and you will find yourself being much more productive.

1. Exercise

In a recent shadowing experience with a chiropractor, he told me this was the best advice he could give for finals. When you feel like you have the least amount of time for it, that is when it is most important to do so. Don’t believe me? Take a look here:

            If any of you have other things that help you relieve stress during finals week, feel free to respond!

May Clinic:
Rhetoric in Civic Life - Catherine Helen Palczewski, Richard Ice, John Fritch

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