Passing the chalk: Advice from experienced teachers to teachers starting their first year


As the new school year began, a fresh batch of teachers entered into schools around the country, nervous and excited for their first year of teaching. Though they have studied, student taught and prepared all summer, many of them still have lingering questions of what to expect.

To help these new teachers, a group of Texas Baptist employees and spouses who are either former or current school teachers joined together to answer some of their questions. 

What was the most unexpected thing you encountered when you first started teaching?

The nonstop pace of planning, teaching, grading, meetings, etc. It’s more than a full-time job. - Teresa Adams

The most unexpected thing I encountered was how to keep the rest of the class busy when I was working with one group. -Sylvia Villareal

What is the best way to build positive relationships with parents?

Every child that I teach is a “parent’s heart.” Always frame any communication with the parent with that in mind. Do not answer an angry email with an email. If I thought  the situation might be misinterpreted, I always picked up the phone and called. My tone always comes through so I made sure it was caring and I was open to input from the parent. -Teresa Adams

Communication. And positive communication! There is nothing like a phone call or email to a parent to let them know something great their student has done at school that day.  Never sugar-coat or praise when praise isn’t earned, but when you do “catch” a student doing something great, try to contact the parent with good news about their child. It makes the contacts when you have an issue to report much easier. -Teri Ussery

What do you wish someone would have told you before your first year of teaching?

 Don’t worry about how cute your room is. Give yourself grace - the learning curve is straight up and it will take time to learn. - Teresa Adams

While I am there to teach the children, it is so important to build relationships with my students. I always wanted to be “that teacher” that kids felt comfortable talking to. I worked in Title I schools much of my career. My students had very little they could rely on. They often had parents who were absent or ill-equipped to parent them. I found that with some of my worst behavior problems, when I reached out and showed I cared, they would at least try to behave in my room because they knew how much I cared for them. - Teri Ussery

How do you create a Christ-like atmosphere within a classroom?

Truly love your kids. I have always been able to find something in every student that I love and appreciate. They will feel it. Pray for them from day one! - Teresa Adams

One must be patient and loving with students to build a Christ-like atmosphere. Never cut them down. Always build them up. - Sylvia Villareal

Prayer Walk the room on a regular basis. Begin your day with the Lord in your classroom. That means getting to school extra early, but it is so important to focus before the chaos begins. -Teri Ussery

What is a good verse of encouragement or guidance for new teachers?

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. - Teresa Adams

Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.” - Sylvia Villareal

2 Corinthians 5:70 “Walk by faith, not by sight.” - Teri Ussery

Answers provided by Teresa Adams, former teacher, grades pre-k, 1st, 3rd, 7th, and current dyslexia therapist Frisco ISD; Sylia Villareal, former kindergarten teacher, now supervisor for student teachers at UNT Dallas; and Teri Ussery, former elementary and middle school music teacher.

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