How To Face Your First-Day Fears

Find out how your big, red badge of courage can take you through the horrors of the first day of classes and make you feel like a million dollars.
by Chinggay Labrador   |  Jun 6, 2010
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After summer's last hurrah, there's nothing left to do but face up to the shrill ringing of your alarm clock, the musty, trusty uniform you love to hate, and the drudging and tedious task of heading back to your alma mater.

Your first day back at school holds excitement (seeing old friends, having immaculate notebooks and new pens) as well as foreboding. Though the idea may seem daft, there really is no reason for you to fear your first day. As long as you're up for the challenge and ready to take in these plans of attack, even the most mortifying school nightmares will be a cinch!

  1. Introduction Anxieties
    Your chipper chem teacher has the class in a big circle. Her instructions? Introduce yourself to the entire class, and remember each and every one of your classmates' names (yes, all 35 of them!). What's the problem there? One, you can't stand lame icebreakers, and two, your throat goes dry and your voice disappears whenever you're tasked to introduce yourself.

    Plan of Attack: To battle introduction jitters, Cabrera says you shouldn't be self-conscious. "Don't keep thinking that the class is focused on you, and that they're watching every word you say." Sure, you're absorbed in all 20 worst case scenarios playing out in your head. Just remember, each and every person in that classroom is as worried about getting up in front of class as you are. Instead of getting all worked up over your little speech, make this your mission instead: let your classmates get to know you-no, not the self-conscious stuttering you, but the ultra-fabulous, super confident diva lurking beneath the surface.

    Quick Fix Tips:
    Loosen up and get rid of those butterflies in your stomach with these surefire mantras and mental exercises.
    • Stretch your imagination. Imagine you're the only one in the room, and you're just talking to yourself in the mirror. This way, you become less self-conscious and more confident.
    • Listen to the others as they speak. You might be able to get some ideas for your turn.
    • Focus on what you want others to know about you—not on how you present yourself to the class.
  2. Terror Teacher Trauma
    You're patiently waiting for homeroom to start, when your eyes pop as you see the terrifying Ms. Tapia walk through the door. Your classmates ogle at the ogre-turned-teacher, and you cringe at the thought of spending your entire freshman year with Shrek's evil twin.

    Plan of Attack:
    No, it's not time to defer high school. Neither is it time to raise hell. Amazingly enough, confidence and preparation are your best weapons against Professor Terror. ICA's high school guidance coordinator Bambi Cabrera says that if you come to class prepared and show your teacher you're eager to learn, Ms. Teacher-From-Hell won't be as terrifying as she seems. Just imagine, standing up in front of the class to explain the rudiments of ax + bx + c = 0, and actually knowing what you're talking about. Not only will you blow your algebra-fearing classmates away, but you'll also impress the socks off your teacher. Once she sees you do justice to the quadratic equation, she'll warm up to you and won't seem too frightful anymore.

    Quick Fix Tips:
    Jamie Ramos, part-time faculty member at the Ateneo de Manila's psychology department, shares that keeping calm will score you an A with a terror teacher. Though the situation may make you want to run away, you do have a better option—and that's to deal.
    • Figure out why you think of her as a terror teacher. Could it be her tough exams or ice-cold glare? Whatever it is, knowing the reason behind her scare quotient could keep you on top of the game.
    • Smile at her or say, "Hello." Even the Carebears have down days. Who knows? Ms. Masungit could only be Ms. Masungit-for-now, and a friendly smile could ease her tight-lipped personality and reveal a much more amicable one.
    • Look at the situation positively. Ramos says, "If you're scared, you don't even need to look at her straight in the eye. Try to focus on someone else in class-fix your sights on a friend who can give you an encouraging smile."

  3. Eenie Meenie Miny Meal
    You're holding on to your Coleman and baon for dear life as you scour the cafeteria line for someone to eat with. You've played around with the idea of eating alone, but on the first day of classes, there's nothing you want more than the comfort of sharing a meal with a friendly face. But you've got a sea of faces in front of you, and you can't seem to zone in on who to lunch with.

    Plan of Attack:
    Ramos says the trick is to start small. "Starting with one person or a group of two or three is easier than joining a big barkada. When you start buddying up to one girl, she'll eventually introduce you to the rest of the group." Cabrera suggests it's good to have a conversation starter handy in times like these. If you're uneasy about joining in the small talk, resort to topics everyone can relate to—like how long that history homework is, or how your geom teacher's glasses keep slipping down his nose. Keep the topics light and easy, so what you say won't come out contrived. "Feel your way," she advises. "Ask yourself when the best time is to start a conversation. Remember, you're trying to join them, so respect them and be polite to their group." It isn't easy to join a group that's already been formed, but if you play along the lines of social etiquette, this challenge won't be too tough. (And when a clique lets you into their inner circle, don't forget to say "Thank you!").

    Quick Fix Tips and Killer Lines:

    • For this scenario, the handy dandy "May I join you?" will work wonders.
    • Once the conversation ball is rolling, start with a safe question and move on to more personal topics (how the group got together, if they have friends from other sections, etc.).
    • Start sharing. Talk about interests, school activities, or what clubs you're planning to join. See how things will develop and hopefully, you will have a group full of potential friends-not just lunch companions.
Psychologist Jamie Ramos shares some fancy schmancy First‑Day tips to help you prevent any disasters that are waiting to happen.
  • The minute you get up, smile and take a deep breath.
  • Enjoy every minute of your first day! It's the start of a new school year, and you've got so many adventures just waiting to happen. There are a million reasons for you to be excited!
  • When you get to school, try to see how different your campus is from a year ago. Getting a grip on your environment will ease the tension.
  • Get to know your old friends again. Ask them about their summers, and how they are now. Let them in on what's new with you, too!
  • Visit your teachers. It may not seem obvious but they always appreciate it when students drop by to say "Hello" and ask them how they are. It lets them know that you care for them as your friends, not just as your teachers.
  • In facing subjects that get tougher by the minute, look for people in class who can help you out. Trade skills with them.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help with anything. If your classmates can't help you, your teachers will-it's just a matter of asking!
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About the author
Chinggay Labrador
Contributing Writer
Chinggay Labrador is a freelance writer for several publications in Manila and overseas. An architect by profession, she loves to travel, dabble in design, bake brownies, bike, surf, practice yoga, and contribute to her family's blog, thehappylab.com.ph. She has released three novels, and her latest fictional short story will be published this month under Buqo Bookstore. She is currently working on a collaborative novel. Chinggay is also a yoga instructor teaching vinyasa yoga, foundations and restoratives. 
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