Cover letter advice

Discussion in 'Job Seekers' started by TeacherGroupie, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 9, 2014

    Late spring 2014 is still job-application season. Here's some friendly advice for the writers of cover letters.

    1. For the first sentence, there really is no substitute for the plain but effective "I am applying for ____ at ____." While it's possible to write a more striking opening sentence, working to do so can soak up more of your energy than it's worth. What's more, a longer and more flowery sentence takes up words that may be better spent elsewhere in your letter.

    2. An effective cover letter should be no more than one page, including your return address etc., the addressee's address, and all the salutations and all. This is true whether you're printing a letter that contains those elements or whether you're submitting a letter electronically that lacks most of those elements. The reason for this is that a shorter letter that's well focused serves your purpose better than a longer letter in which you ramble.

    3. Keep firmly in mind the purpose of the cover letter. It is NOT to detail your educational history and licensure status or to recap your resume. It is NOT to divulge your philosophy of education or your grasp of teacherly buzzwords. Its purpose is to get the reader interested enough in YOU, teacher, to want to look at your resume and the rest of what should be in your application packet.

    4. Tailor your cover letter to the job's needs. Suppose you're applying for a position teaching physical education in third grade. Brainstorm a list of key physical-education skills and abilities a beginning grade 3 student should already possess and another list of key skills etc. a student should acquire in grade 3. (Your state content standards can be very helpful here.) Then brainstorm a list of teacherly skills and abilities that you possess that can help your students progress on grade level or make up ground if they're below.

    5. Brainstorm up several anecdotes (little stories) that show you successfully dealing with the needs of a grade-level student and a student who's behind grade level. Build your letter around the anecdotes that best show off your strengths as a teacher, a third grade teacher, and a PE teacher. Anecdotes from student teaching are fine; heck, anecdotes from being a summer-camp counselor can work, if they illustrate the point you want to make.

    6. Tailor your cover letter to the district's/school's needs. Never tell the district that it or its job are perfect for you. Your task is to show, instead, that you're right for the the district and the job. Do some homework: a Google search should bring up an official Web site (good source of school missions/mottoes to quote or mention). If the area has distinctive characteristics with which you're familiar, mention them: if you're applying to a very rural school and you grew up in one, it's fair game to say so.

    7. If you're stuck - and even if you're not - look at other cover letters posted in this thread. Pay attention not just to the cover letters but to the comments and suggestions that they evoked. (In other words, learn from others' successes, but also from their mistakes.)
     
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  3. cafekarma

    cafekarma Rookie

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    Jun 9, 2014

    TeacherGroupie, thank you so much for all of the cover letter help you have provided on this forum. I've built my cover letter using the thorough and honest advice you've given to others. By the way, there are very few examples of great cover letters on this forum because most people never post their complete product. SO, there are more examples here of what not to do.
     
  4. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    You're welcome, cafekarma!
     
  5. RedStripey

    RedStripey Comrade

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    Jun 13, 2014

    This was such a great advice! Thank you.

    I'm a very good writer but I have such a hard time with my cover letter. I wrote a great one last year thanks to this forum, but I'm having trouble writing about what I've been doing for the past year and I can't really figure out why...
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 13, 2014

    You're welcome, RedStripey!

    Let me suggest that you try less hard to be a very good writer, to begin with: punch out a draft that's adequate, in writerly terms, but that contains (in one half-baked form or another) what you want to convey. Then play with that.
     
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  7. RedStripey

    RedStripey Comrade

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    Jun 13, 2014

    That's basically what I tell my students all the time. I guess I should take my own advice. :)
     
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  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jun 14, 2014

    Yup, that's often the way of it, Red.
     
  9. CDOR79

    CDOR79 Companion

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    Aug 3, 2014

    Great information! Thanks for posting this :)
     
  10. texashistory

    texashistory Rookie

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    Aug 3, 2014

    What to do when you're applying to the same job just at different schools?

    Other than changing the school name in the cover letter everything written applies. 3rd grade sped teacher at ABC elementary school in district Z vs XYZ 3rd grade sped teacher. Same job requirements due to the same district schools barely 20 miles apart.

    This is what stumps me. Other than rearranging paragraphs I don't see the need to change the entire letter. It's the exact same job. Now in a different district I see changing.
     
  11. willow129

    willow129 Comrade

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    Aug 3, 2014

    I had that same thing happen to me, I used the exact same letter and essays and got interviews at both schools. I feel like if you see a place where you can modify your materials a bit for one school vs. another then do it, but I felt the important thing was just to get the apps in and if it could be done quickly then I did it quickly!
     
  12. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Aug 15, 2014

    I never responded to texashistory, did I? The short answer is that it's quite possible that most of each third-grade-SPED letter can be exactly the same. What you change is the part that's specific to the school or district: make a connection between, say, the job and the district's mission statement, or mention a news story that puts the school in a good light. Planting that information in the first paragraph isn't the only way to organize things, but it means you always know where to look to figure out what needs to be personalized.
     
  13. Marissam

    Marissam New Member

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    Mar 11, 2016

    Thank you so much for your cover letter tips.
     
  14. miss-m

    miss-m Cohort

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    Question about this -- I'm applying for a general position (Elementary Teachers for next year in the whole district) but would love to focus my letter on the specific school I'd like to work at. Is that bad form? I want to teach at this specific school because it's where I student taught, and I've missed the teachers, the students, and the general atmosphere of the school. Is it ok to say in my letter that I'd prefer to be considered just for that school?
     
  15. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    If the letter is for the general position, focus the letter on the district, though you can (and almost certainly should) mention your experience at the specific school.
     
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  16. teacherquestions

    teacherquestions Rookie

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    Jul 8, 2016

    Tottally agree that it should be tailored to the school. So many times ive read super generic cover letters that are forgotten immediately.
     
  17. ChristineSmith

    ChristineSmith New Member

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    Nov 8, 2017

    I really liked the information. I read something similar on ... But here somehow more fully spelled out. By the way, there is still an urgent need to know these notes. Thanks!
     

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