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ESL MiniConference Online!

ESL Workplace is Friendly and Open, Says Survey
Only Slight Differences Between the Responses of Administrators and Teachers

Over the past several months, readers of ESL MiniConference Online have been participating in an informal survey to determine the general dynamics of ESL workplace environments. 50 percent of respondents were teachers; 42 percent, administrators; 8 percent, teachers in training. Thanks to all who took the survey! Anyone else who wishes to send in responses is welcome to do so, for a later reanalysis.

In response to the first question, When I need help figuring out a teaching problem I first ..., 58 percent of participants said they first ask fellow teachers for their advice. 33 percent said they first do research in the library and on the Internet. And 9 percent said they first ask someone in administration for help.

In response to the second question, My relationship with the ESL staff at my school is ..., a whopping 83 percent said friendly, though we don't see each other much outside of work. The other 17 percent were about evenly split between very friendly, in fact we often get together informally for fun and businesslike and strictly professional.

To the third question, Teachers at my school generally exercise ... autonomy, again an overwhelming majority of respondents--83 percent--filled the blank with a great deal of, while the rest answered some. No one so far has reported teachers at their school exercising little or no autonomy.

These numbers reflect well on the overall dynamics at the ESL programs represented by the respondents, most of whom are regular readers of ESL MiniConference Online. Although there are a few small differences between the answers given by teachers and administrators, in general it seems that perceptions are not terribly skewed by their distinct roles within their institutions.

However, there are several interesting distinctions. Teachers are much more likely to seek out other teachers for advice (67 percent) than are administrators (40 percent), who in turn, are a little more likely (40 percent) than teachers (33 percent) to visit the library or the Internet first. No teacher said he or she would first ask advice from an administrator, while 20 percent of administrators seem most comfortable with this option.

On question two, regarding co-worker relationships, 100 percent of teachers said these were friendly, but did not involve extracurricular get-togethers; 20 percent of administrators said their relationship with the ESL staff was friendly enough to include informal events outside of school.

It is also interesting that 17 percent of teachers but no administrators said teachers at their school had little or no autonomy. More interesting, however, is the strong agreement between administrators (80 percent) and teachers (83 percent) that teachers exercise a great deal of autonomy at their schools.

One area for further study would be the relationship between feelings about teacher autonomy and the hesitancy of teachers to turn to administrators for help with teaching problems. Is there a trade-off between autonomy and accessibility to administrators? Are teachers afraid of showing weaknesses to their supervisors, because they believe this would result in diminished levels of autonomy? Do administrators make themselves available to their teachers, and do they give good advice when asked? Is there a sense in your institution that supervisors are always in an evaluative mode? Is there anything administrators can do to reduce any tension which may be preventing them from building the rapport so their teachers can see them as facilitators of good learning and teaching practices?

Story by Robb Scott