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  #1  
Old 11-08-2012, 08:24 PM
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Myrisophilist Myrisophilist is offline
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Cover Letter - First [Real] Job Application

The time has come to apply for jobs (I'm more than half way through student teaching). *cue scary music* Everyone is always so helpful with giving constructive criticism here. Please take a look below and give me your feedback. Thanks!

Dear X:

The ELL/Science Teacher position at X High School hooked me as soon as I saw it on [website]. I will be a newly certified science teacher upon completion of my student teaching internship in December and I am confident that my strengths and interests in science, language, and students from diverse backgrounds make me an ideal candidate for this position.

My interest in different cultures has been a theme in my college activities. One of the main reasons I was attracted to [HS where I am student teaching] for my student teaching internship was the large international student population. With students from East Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and elsewhere around the world, I knew it would be a fun and challenging experience which would help me build skills for one of my goals: teaching science abroad. At [HS where I am student teaching], I seized the opportunity to collaborate with the Literacy Team, a group of faculty that is leading the school-wide literacy initiative to incorporate strategies into all areas of instruction. I have enjoyed implementing techniques including a word wall, triple entry vocabulary exercises, and concept mapping on a daily basis. My students are particularly fond of the crossword puzzles I create that incorporate science vocabulary and SAT words. Clear communication is an emphasis in my biology classes and, through consistent feedback and support, my students’ average grades on laboratory reports have climbed from a C to a B. The teaching skills I have learned would be beneficial for the responsibilities of an ELL/science teacher, such as setting incremental goals for Lau Plans and providing instruction in both science content and language.

The opportunity to work with Somali-American students and other ELL students would be a rewarding next step in my teaching career for me and for X High School. Both as a professional and as an individual I strongly believe in equality for people of all backgrounds, the importance of a united and involved community, and an ethical commitment to helping students become global citizens. I will be available for employment as soon as my student teaching internship is complete in mid-December of this year. If you wish to discuss my application, please contact me by email at X or by phone at X (home) or X (cell). Thank you for your consideration; I look forward to speaking with you.
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  #2  
Old 11-09-2012, 10:31 AM
TeacherGroupie TeacherGroupie is offline
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You've got the germ of a good letter here, but it doesn't quite grab me.

Stylistically, it's an odd mix of breezy ("hooked me as soon as I saw it") and formal ("I will be available for employment"). The paragraphing is also a bit odd; try thinking about what each of your sentences is about, and let that guide you on paragraph breaks. Your opening paragraph advertises you as quite green, and twice it supplies a detail (when your student teaching ends) that's in your resume: bear in mind that the point of the cover letter is not to recap your resume but to interest the reader in you enough to WANT to read your resume. In two places you tell the district you plan not to stay ("one of my goals: teaching science abroad" and "rewarding next step"). Your letter bristles with literacy/ELL buzzwords, but the proper place to show off your grasp of the terminology is in the interview.

Have you got a nice helping-someone-get-it anecdote or two that shows you reaching a particular kid? If so, please tell it/them here (use fake names for students) and let's see what we can do with them.
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  #3  
Old 11-09-2012, 11:25 AM
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Myrisophilist Myrisophilist is offline
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Dang, you're good!
  • Ok, so I need to refocus my cover letter on making the reader WANT to meet me. I tried to add details that would give more info about the things on my resume, but I can remove that.
  • Good point about indicating that I don't plan to stay...that's not exactly my position, but I don't want to even give the impression that this would be a temporary job. I thought I was sounding goal-directed.
  • Should I remove the references to literacy skills? I thought that would be a strength.
  • I'll think about an anecdote and get back to you.

Thanks!
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  #4  
Old 11-09-2012, 02:11 PM
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Calif.
Use the cover letter to convey the sort of glimpse of you that a resume doesn't. Most A to Z readers on whose letters I've posted seem to find it easiest to move off of reciting their resumes via one big anecdote or two smaller ones, but that's by no means the only route. Anyway, at this point we're still brainstorming, capisce?

The trick with the literacy buzzwords is not to omit them but to ensure that they don't sound like a catalogue of terms-with-which-to-impress-or-snow. You need to make them organic to your letter, and often the most straightforward way to do that when they occur naturally in the course of the anecdote.

Since the position is in science, you might want to make more of that. (Note this chunk of your first paragraph (which ought probably to be a sentence in its own right, by the way): "I am confident that my strengths and interests in science, language, and students from diverse backgrounds make me an ideal candidate for this position." It more or less promises the reader a letter that shows you in action in science and language and with students from diverse backgrounds; you partly delivered, but we haven't heard much about the science. Have you got a story about reaching a kid in science? Or a story about a particular lesson in science that really resonated because of both the content and the literacy that you built into it?

Got any quotes from kids that reminded you why teaching well is worth doing?
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  #5  
Old 11-09-2012, 03:22 PM
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Myrisophilist Myrisophilist is offline
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You're definitely right about the dearth of science info in my letter. That had crossed my mind, but honestly I was more worried about bulking up my ESL/ELL qualifications. Here are some thoughts I had in response to your suggestions:
  • Teaching the students microbiology skills (making a streak plate, flaming a loop, staining a slide) was a highlight because microbiology is one of my favorite subjects.
  • I designed a literacy activity (similar to triple entry vocab) in which students created an analogy for a cell, wrote the function of each cell organelle, and made an analogy for each organelle within the larger analogy (e.g. the cell is a city, the nucleus is the town office, etc.)
  • One of my international students from Jamaica has been getting extra help with his lab reports and we've both been so pleased that he has improved so much.
  • The students had a lot of positive responses when I gave them homework online (they had to visit specific sites to do interactive activities on cells and then answer a few questions on a Google Docs form). My cooperating teacher doesn't use any technology so it was kind of novel for them.
  • I like working one-on-one with my students because they often know the material but just lack confidence in themselves. This has certainly been my experience with teaching how to draw a concept map.

As for a student quote, I haven't been able to come up with anything yet. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me out!
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  #6  
Old 11-10-2012, 01:36 PM
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Calif.
If you and your favorite professor were having coffee and chatting about your teaching, what stories might you tell, and how?
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  #7  
Old 11-11-2012, 12:12 PM
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Myrisophilist Myrisophilist is offline
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I am writing a letter to one of my favorite professors to help me think of anecdotes. Great advice!

Here is a totally different "generic" version of my cover letter for some long-term biology sub positions. I tried to hook the reader with my opening sentence. There is only one mention of my "greenness" as a teacher, and there is nothing that should indicate that I plan to get a different job anytime soon (although that shouldn't matter since this is for LTS positions). I plan to add in a few details about each of the schools I'm applying to in each respective cover letter:

My first long-term substituting experience in Honors and AP Biology began the day I interviewed for the position, just two days after I marched in graduation at UNIVERSITY. The organization, determination, and knowledge required in order to be successful in this role – one of the most rewarding and challenging responsibilities I have taken on – make me an ideal candidate for the long-term biology substitute position at SCHOOL. I am confident that my enthusiasm and skills in science will benefit students at SCHOOL.

My favorite aspect of teaching biology is helping students develop real science skills. As a student teacher I have facilitated laboratory activities in which students cultured bacteria, tested the biomolecular composition of food samples with chemical indicators, and surveyed the biodiversity in plots of land. My students, some of whom are English Language Learners, benefit from these concrete applications of science in their lives and from my Constructivist approach to learning.

I relish the creative opportunities in teaching. One of my strengths is incorporating literacy techniques into lessons. Along with using traditional strategies such as concept mapping and triple entry vocabulary exercises, I enjoy finding innovative ways to engage students in academic challenges. My students are particularly fond of the crossword puzzles I create that contain science vocabulary and SAT words. Most recently, I have been expanding my instructional strategies by creating online assignments. Learning to effectively integrate technology in the classroom is one of my goals as a teacher; the positive feedback from my students, who indicate that they appreciate the interactive and self-paced nature of online activities, has excited me to explore new ways in which I can incorporate technology.

As a self-motivated and dedicated teacher with fresh ideas, I am eager for the opportunity to exercise my skills as a long-term biology substitute at SCHOOL. I will be available for employment as soon as my student teaching internship is complete in mid-December of this year. If you wish to discuss my application, please contact me by email at EMAIL or by phone at PHONE NUMBER (cell) or PHONE NUMBER (home). Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to speaking with you.
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  #8  
Old 11-11-2012, 12:23 PM
JustMe JustMe is offline
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Not much in the way of advice, but the use of "hooked me" struck me as odd.
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  #9  
Old 11-11-2012, 12:33 PM
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Myrisophilist Myrisophilist is offline
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Thanks, JustMe. Do you have any suggestions for another phrase? I'm trying to convey that the position jumped out at me as being something I would be really good at.
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  #10  
Old 11-11-2012, 05:42 PM
TeacherGroupie TeacherGroupie is offline
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Calif.
Don't try quite so hard to hook the reader with your first sentence. There simply aren't that many ways to phrase "I am applying for the ___ job at ___," so go ahead and start with some variation of that - and, yes, do by all means follow that sentence with a sentence that shows you've done your homework as regards the position and the school.

This version now runs longer and a bit wordier than will work for you.

How long was that LTS? Have you got a story from it that you'd tell me over coffee or a nice adult beverage, as appropriate?
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