BECOME A MEMBER! Sign up for TIE services now and start your international school career


The Role Administrators Play in Creating Exemplary ESL Programs

By Bonnie Billak
The Role Administrators Play in Creating Exemplary ESL Programs

Administrators often overlook or are unaware of the key role they play in developing and maintaining ESL programs at their schools. In fact, their level of involvement is of such great importance that it can be a deciding factor in the success or failure of the entire program thus affecting the academic success of the students.
First, when creating an ESL program, it is important that administrators ensure that the program is tailored to meet the needs of the student body at their particular school. Some schools have a large ESL community while other schools have very few ESL students—factors greatly influencing the staffing and structural needs of the program. Secondly, they should make sure that students are not placed back a grade due to their lack of English (except in extreme cases), a common practice at some schools. Thirdly, they should ensure that ESL students are provided the teaching assistance needed to be kept on grade level with their coursework. This should not be a responsibility relegated to tutors.
Even more importantly, administrators need to show teachers that they are genuinely committed to the development of a strong ESL program. This message must be expressed through actions, not just words, so that teachers will not think that the administrators are only paying lip service to this endeavor. This needs to be a constant effort, reinforced over and over, so that teachers understand that the administrators consider it a priority item.
This commitment can be expressed to staff in a myriad of ways. For example:
1. On-site training for all teachers in ESL-friendly teaching techniques. This training would be for classroom teachers, PE, art, music, learning support staff, etc.
2. Off-site training for selected teachers.
3. Arranging the weekly schedule to allow time for “teachers helping teachers” sessions in which teachers share what they have learned in various courses, through their years of experience, etc.
4. Making it a priority to send teachers to the international TESOL Conference. This is an amazing annual event usually held in the U.S. or Canada.
5. Obtaining a TESOL school membership to allow all teachers to have constant access to the latest information on ESL teaching, i.e. on-line courses, publications, research, etc.
Finally, and of utmost importance, administrators need to develop a system to monitor that teachers are engaged in intentional language teaching and using ESL-friendly techniques for everything they teach throughout the day rather than just using these strategies/techniques when an administrator walks into the room.
Plus, a system of consequences for teachers who refuse to cooperate should be established to maintain the strength of the program. Some teachers may feel that teaching second language learners is not in the realm of their responsibility and will stubbornly refuse to adapt their teaching style to meet the needs of the language learners.
With the strong backing of administrators, ESL programs can grow into exemplary language programs meeting the needs of ESL students and strengthening the language skills of all students no matter what native language they might speak. However, the key to success is in how the administrators sell the program to their staff and their constant support and nurturing of the program.

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:


04/19/2015 - gringagirl
If all subject teachers accepted the fact that they teach to mainly second language learners I suspect their students would accomplish more and experience less frustration. Slow it down, choose different words and don't forget body language.

As an ESL teacher we hear from our students what goes on in other classes and it can be very frustrating for a bright kid to feel ignorant.



Elevate Student Voice & Choice in Diverse Learning Settings
By Lindsay Kuhl, Jane Russell Valezy, & Esther Bettney
May 2021

Increasing Student Autonomy Through Time and Place
By Tim Johnson & Tony Winch
May 2021