Prodigy or Prodigal Student?

Did you know that ‘Prodigy’ and ‘Prodigal’ are found on the same page in the ‘Oxford Dictionary Usage Guide’? They share a page, and quite nicely frame the academic dilemma that occurs around this time of year. My academic dilemma revolves around the exam time tables and marking scheme papers. Both deadlines are quickly approaching making this a time of year for nail-biting and a general student-angst.

 This is the time of year when I decide if I am working and learning to the academic standards I aspire to or if I am falling short of the mark, no pun intended. It is a busy time of year with a lot of extra activities, responsibilities, and other distractions. Besides seasonal personal and professional obligations it is the time of year when marking scheme papers are under way and exam registration means an irrevocable commitment to several dates in May.

 Before I decide if I will commit to one, two or three exams in May I like to review several years of ‘Examiners Reports’ thoroughly. It helps to get an understanding of the terms and themes covered frequently in exams, and to see if I can attempt questions with the texts I have been studying closely. I like to know that I can outline answers to several questions by this time of the academic term. It is also helpful to note if I can apply any secondary reading to my attempts.

Secondary reading is more important to me this year than ever before. I have been keeping a more concise and thorough bibliography than in the past. I actually started my secondary reading bibliography several months ago because I wanted a productive way to recall information from memory and notes. This term I am using more research strategies than reading and rereading primary texts. I do not have enough time to read and re-read texts this year, and I need a different approach to develop a more in-depth knowledge of the texts, authors and periods; I also want to find a way to express a more considered and nuanced response to exam questions.

I think finding a way to express myself differently means I might have to study and approach literature differently, which is okay with me. For me, it means searching for my ‘inner prodigy’ much  like the inspiring movie about Joshua Waitzkin. The wonderful thing about the movie ‘Searching For Bobby Fischer’ is the pure joy of doing something for the pleasure of it, in a way that you truly enjoy.  For me, it is highly motivating to use this time and experience to focus on where I want to be, and rise to that occasion.  This winter solstice is a turning point. I want to study like a literature prodigy for the next few months until exams rather than approach them, and our marking scheme papers, like a prodigal student.

 It is very easy to feel like a prodigal student when the exam entry forms arrive in my mailbox , as my entry form did today. Suddenly the commitment of time and resources makes the study experience painfully real. A good sense of panic can set in if I allow it.  But then I remember at this time of year my work is not as fully formed as it will be at exam time; there is still a lot of reading and writing to do between now and May. I can visualize my work evolving over the next few weeks as I become more confident and accomplished with my texts. I like to remind myself how much I enjoy literature and studying.

 The joy of study motivates the literature prodigy in me – just in time for four papers and my commitment to three exams. I hope it is as motivating and inspiring to you. The choice between prodigy and prodigal is really very easy once faced with it; study for the joy of it, write for the pleasure of doing it, and join the marking schemes and exams full of inspiration and the expectation of achievement.

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