Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Byrd Clark, Julie S.


This critical ethnographic study investigated the anxiety and resilience experiences of English as an Additional Language (EAL) teachers in Ontario, Canada during their early careers after the pandemic. The study drew on literature regarding the TESOL profession’s precarious nature, resilience and anxiety concepts, pandemic impacts on language education, and debates on native-speakerism. It employed four-level theoretical frameworks, including the theories of critical praxis (Freire, 1970), reflexivity (Byrd Clark, 2020), ecological systems (Bronfenbrenner,1979), and the community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) for its design and implementation. Four pre-service and three in-service English language teachers participated, providing weekly reflective journals for 12 weeks followed by a semi-structured interview.

Findings showed that pre-service EAL teachers primarily felt anxious due to academic English skill challenges, peer pressure, limited practical teaching exposure, and concerns about time management and future prospects. Their resilience was enhanced by factors such as growth mindset, written reflections, academic resources, peer support both within and outside the TESOL program, institutional wellness and career services, and hands-on teaching experiences. In contrast, in-service EAL teachers reported unstable working conditions, specific teaching hurdles, and perceived ineffective managerial support as major anxiety sources. Their resilience was linked to coping mechanisms like perspective shifts, reflective journaling, student relationships, peer interactions, institutional workshops, and stable immigration status.

This study’s primary contributions encompass a shift from mainstream anxiety research in the field of applied linguistics to a socio-ecological view of both EAL teacher anxiety and resilience. Additional aspects of research significance underscore the effectiveness of online reflective journals and interviews for exploring teacher emotions, heighten EAL teachers’ awareness of and preparation for early-career transition challenges, and offer critical insights for teacher educators, teacher preparation programs, and policy makers in Ontario, Canada to better support early-career EAL teachers.

Summary for Lay Audience

This research looked into the anxiety and successful adaptation experiences of teachers in Ontario, Canada who speak and teach English as an additional language. This was especially for those teachers who started their careers since the pandemic. The study was informed by previous research publications on topics such as English language teachers’ insecure work conditions, how the pandemic affected language teaching, and discussions on whether being a native English speaker matters in teaching. The research used different theories to understand these topics better. Research participants included seven teachers. Four of them were still in training, while three were already teaching. These teachers kept a diary for 12 weeks and then had an interview.

Findings showed that teacher trainees were mainly worried about their English skills, their peers’ academic performance, not having much real teaching experience, and concerns about managing their time and job prospects. However, they became stronger by having a positive mindset, writing reflections, getting support from their peers, and actual teaching experiences. Those more experienced teachers were concerned about their job security, teaching challenges, and lack of support from their management. They coped with such concerns by changing their outlook, writing about their feelings, connecting with students, attending workshops, and having a stable legal status in Canada.

This study is important because it sees the major worries and strengths of these teachers from a broader perspective, focusing on the role of complex social environments. It also highlights the value of online diaries and interviews to understand teachers’ feelings. This research can help teachers understand their emotional and professional experiences better and give important feedback to teacher educators, program developers, and administrators.


1-10-2024: Abstract revised to correct grammatical errors. Revision of abstract made within Metadata and thesis document. 1-10-2024: Additional title page removed.