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
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
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