100-Apps-1 Interview-Tell me what I'm doing WRONG? Letter of Intro critique

Discussion in 'Job Seekers' started by unity, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. unity

    unity Rookie

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    Jul 2, 2012

    Hi,
    I've been a lurker for a while, but the time has come to intro myself. I finished student teaching last year, had my baby, now I am all looking forward to a mild/moderate position in Socal.

    I really hope that the market isn't that bad and that I'm doing something wrong. I only have the cell phone for one of my references, and work numbers for the others, so I need to try to contact other people.

    So, here it is:

    I am interested in joining your school as a special education teacher. I graduated from Brandman University in 2011 with my teaching credential in Mild to Moderate Special Education. I have been a substitute teacher for over 4 years. I have substituted in different special education classrooms as well as inclusive classrooms. I have recently been successful as a student teacher in a special education classroom.

    My experiences in education have been valuable in shaping my skills as a teacher. I learned to be flexible and to meet the needs of many different grade and ability levels. I have found ways to be resourceful, adaptive and to successfully cope with many different situations. I have had the opportunity to employ a lot of different classroom management techniques and to be proactive in getting students on task.

    I welcome the challenge of working with students from different backgrounds, of
    different abilities and with varying learning styles at your school. I look forward to talking with you about joining the teaching team at your earliest convenience.

    Thanks for any advice:D
     
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  3. HOPE-fulTeacher

    HOPE-fulTeacher Comrade

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    Jul 2, 2012

    It's very....generic.

    There's nothing in the letter that would make me want to stop and read further, if I were an admin looking through hundreds or thousands of these. (Sorry to be so blunt.)

    Try searching other threads for cover letter help- it's very common for people to start out with a generic letter, but then (through the helpful advice on the forum), turn their letters into something that stands out and is really unique to them.

    Ideas that stand out to me:
    -Include a brief story to illustrate the point you're making. You've employed different management techniques and have been proactive with getting students on task? Show us through a story about a student who was helped by that, or through specific examples of how you did that. (Make sure to leave out any identifying info, of course.)
    - Research the specific school or district you're applying to and include "proof" of that in your letter. Mention something about their mission statement, a program that they have, etc. so it shows you took the time to research their school and aren't just blanketing the area with cover letters (even though you are). :)
    - Also, I am NOT a sped teacher, so I don't know if this would be helpful or not, but what about including the specific "techniques" or programs that you're familiar with using? Or specific examples of how you've helped students meet/exceed their IEP goals (again, without including any identifying info).
     
  4. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Jul 2, 2012

    I second what Hope said. Could you also rewrite some sentences so most do not start with I? It's hard not to use I when writing about yourself, but I think your letter would sound more sophisticated with some dependent clauses.
     
  5. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Fanatic

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    100 Apps is not as many as you think.
     
  6. Rainbowbird

    Rainbowbird Groupie

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    Jul 2, 2012

    I agree with the others. Even just one brief example of how you were successful with a student can make your letter stand out. "For example, I found that one of my reading groups responded well to......and so I...... Or, "One of my students said that......after I ........" fill in the blanks. Think about students you have worked with who you know you have helped, and find a situation that you can briefly describe in your letter.

    It used to be that you could land a job with a professional but slightly generic letter. I know, because I landed two that way! In this market, though, it really helps to stand out in some way. Give them a feel for who you are.
     
  7. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Jul 2, 2012

    Yes, it's way too generic. Nothing stands out about it, nothing makes them say, "Wow, this candidate is the best!"

    I agree with the previous poster who suggested mentioning specific programs/techniques that you're familiar with. This shows employers that you're up-to-date with the latest strategies and you could bring something new to their district. I believe that I said I used positive behavior support techniques, I was familiar with PECS, and creating programming based on individual sensory needs (I was a curriculum manager at a summer camp for kids with autism). Highlight your best skills and be prepared to discuss how you would use them in your classroom at the interview.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 2, 2012

    Nearly every sentence starts with 'I '....I stopped reading somewhere in the second paragraph. You need more action, strong verbs....paint a picture with your words of who you are as a teacher...
     
  9. anewstart101

    anewstart101 Cohort

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    Jul 2, 2012

    Chiming in here: If your in southern california it could very well be the area. The OC is down right brutal for mild/moderate. Are you looking for elementary or do you have math or english cset to do high school?

    Have you considered adding your mod/severe? I would look into Riverside and northern san diego areas. Have you considered home/hospital teaching?

    Jobs are out there but there are TONS of applicants. Sometimes 2 or 3 hundred for one position.

    Check non-public schools also.

    Stephanie
     
  10. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 2, 2012

    Some advice a district superintendent (I met our State Superintendent personally btw, a week ago at a PD!--sorry had to brag) gave me was to not be afraid to let your personality shine through in your cover letter. Of course you want it to be professional, but you really really want to show how enthusiastic for the position you are, and what type of teacher you are going to be. (i.e. are you a quirky and fun teacher or a determined and ambitious teacher, etc.)

    Some might think that may be detrimental, but at the very least, even if they think your personality isn't a match for the district, letting your personality through will make it interesting for the person to read.

    Also as everyone else has said, definitely show SPECIFIC examples of actions you've taken in the classroom, or experiences you've had. (List location, year, grade level -- it gives more credence to your claims)
     
  11. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    Jul 2, 2012

    I get about 1 interview for every 200 positions I apply to. And I have 5 years of experience. I wish I had kept track of all the positions I apply for.... But I am sure I am in the 700-1000 range (at least) and I have my 4th interview scheduled for the 10th.
     
  12. chasisaac

    chasisaac Comrade

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    Jul 3, 2012

    I would offer suggestions, but that would most likely get deleted.

    Over the past year I sent out well over 200 (closer to 300). I received 1 interview. Got the job.

    As soon as I was offered the job, I have had three more places contact me. Same thing happened last time.
     
  13. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Jul 3, 2012

    I agree with much of what was already said. Not being a SPED teacher, all of the sentences beginning with "I" really stood out the most. Change that right away, but then think about what other things make you a uniquely qualified candidate. What other training do you bring to the table? Was there anything about your student teaching experience that makes you stand out? The goal, at least at first, is to get yourself noticed!
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 3, 2012

    It's the hiring climate, yes, but it's also the letter, frankly.

    I realize the letter's generic at least in part because this is a public forum, but whatever you send out should show not only that you're a good candidate for a generic job but that you have some awareness of the district or school at which you're applying. You can tuck that into your first paragraph: make that paragraph about the job and the district rather than about you.

    Have you got any stories about students for whom you've made a difference? Tell them here and let's see what we can do with them.
     
  15. unity

    unity Rookie

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    Jul 9, 2012

    2nd Draft

    Thanks for all the replies.

    anewstart101:I have looked into the state hospitals, esp. Patton, but they all seem to require learning handicapped , which I believe you need a clear credential to get

    I think I still want to pep it up a bit and find a short anecdote, but here it is:

    Dear Future Boss(I hope!) or HR ,

    It is with great enthusiasm that I look forward to joining your learning community as a special education teacher. I graduated from Chapman University in 2011 with my teaching credential in Mild to Moderate Special Education. I have been a substitute teacher for over 5 years in a school district with low SES and EL learners(will get stats later) . My experiences include substitute teaching in SDC, ED and Autistic special education classrooms as well as inclusive classrooms. I have recently been successful as a student teacher in a special education classroom. I also met the challenges of reaching students in a non-public school specializing in ED, SED students.
    My experiences in education have been valuable in shaping my skills as a teacher. The experience taught me to be flexible, use wisdom in split-second decisions and to meet the needs of many different grade and ability levels. As a teacher, I have found ways to be resourceful, adaptive and to successfully cope with many different situations. I have found that students greatly benefit from my ability to manage the classroom, respond to events calmly without escalating problems, along with my ability to employ a variety of different classroom management techniques and to be proactive in getting students on task. I have been able to implement routines that smooth transitions from subject to subject, help students to become responsible for their classroom environment and taught them how to be ready to learn. I hold my students to high standards behaviorally and academically, and support them along their way. I had the opportunity to contribute to two different IEPs, as well as writing three other practice documents.
    My experiences thus far have prepared me for the challenge of working with students from different backgrounds, of different abilities and with varying learning styles at your school. I look forward to talking with you about joining the teaching team at your earliest convenience. Thank you for considering me for this position.


    Sincerely,
    Future Teacher




    “She has shown that she is able to connect with her students and that her talents at teaching simple and advanced concepts are truly superior”- Master Teacher
     
  16. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Jul 9, 2012

    Consider changing the first paragraph so that it's tailored to the mission statement, specific job description, and pathway of each school you apply to.

    Currently, you are using that paragraph to summarize your resume. You don't need to do that in a cover letter.
     
  17. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 9, 2012

    ?
     
  18. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    Jul 9, 2012

    I'd say skip the abbreviations. It's a formal letter, and believe it or not, sometimes superintendents don't know what things like "SDC" stand for. They have a lot to worry about!
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 9, 2012

    It's still dead boring, I'm afraid. Special-t is right: way too much of it simply recaps your resume. The purpose of a cover letter is not to stand in for your resume but rather to get the principal or the HR functionary or whoever interested enough in you to want to read the resume.

    Have you got a story about a kid for whom you made a difference? Call the kid "Terry" and tell me the story.
     
  20. kitegal89

    kitegal89 Rookie

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    Jul 10, 2012

    Think about the things you had to do that made you say these sentences. Write down the situation and then write how you reacted to it. Here's some questions to guide you:

    What was a split second decision you had to make?

    What was a situation where you had different grade levels? How did you adapt to that?

    What's an good example of your resourcefulness?

    What was an event where you had to respond calmly? Why did that make a difference?

    What's an example of you being proactive in keeping the student's interested on and on task?

    How did you implement routines that smooth transitions from subject to subject? Did you come up with your own way? If so, how did you think of it? Did it work? How do you know it worked?

    How do you "manage" a classroom?

    How do you help a student manage his or her environment? Is there a certain lesson you use, a song, a helpful saying, etc?

    *I would answer all the questions. Use only about two examples in your cover letter. You will adjust based on the philosophies of the schools you are applying to.

    Hope that helps.
    C
     
  21. unity

    unity Rookie

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    Jul 14, 2012

    Final Draft.

    Thanks for diagnosing my letter, kitegal89 and to all others.

    I'm prepping for another interview Tuesday, so I'm just getting around to my final draft.

    I have four anecdotes, 1 involving curriculum and 3 involving behavior, so at the higher performing schools, I'm thinking I should use the curriculum one, and use the behaviors one at lower performing schools.
    Dear So and So,

    It is with great enthusiasm that I look forward to joining your learning community as a special education teacher. (Show that I've researched the school here).My experiences that would help me reach your students include substitute teaching in SDC, ED and Autistic special education classrooms as well as inclusive classrooms.

    My experiences in education have been valuable in shaping my skills as a teacher. The experience taught me to be flexible and to use wisdom in split-second decisions and to meet the needs of many different grade and ability levels. I have found that students greatly benefit from my ability to manage the classroom, respond to events calmly without escalating problems, along with my ability to employ a variety of different classroom management techniques and to be proactive in getting students on task. One of the times I had to decide how to best defuse the situation was when upon finishing a social skills lesson on anger management in a ED classroom, we returned to work. Or, we tried to, but in a few minutes one student started having a behavioral crisis, glared at me, then threw a book across the table in my general direction. Instead of sending him to the office, I decided to refer back to the lesson, reminded him that he had assured me that he understood it and would implement it, even better than his classmates, and we got back to work after a brief cool down period.
    As a teacher, I have found ways to be resourceful, adaptive and to successfully cope with many different situations. One example of this is my ability to use the core curriculum and explain it to students. While teaching a lesson about oceans vs. lakes to kindergarten students, I had using the teacher's edition of their book. Only six of the students had ever been to the ocean, and a few more to lakes. Realizing the students would be restless and bored silly with 20 minutes of reading from the book, I came up with 3 key points and movements to demonstrate the differences to them. I modeled for them to stick their tongues out and make a bad face for salty water, walk their fingers upside down a lot for an ocean or a little for a lake, to demonstrate differences in size. Also, they held their hands out flat for lakes, and waved their two hands for oceans, to highlight the stillness of lakes, vs. the waves of the ocean. The students had a blast and the majority of the class got it right for 4 out of 5 of the pictures we looked at.
    I have been able to implement routines that smooth transitions from subject to subject, help students I had the opportunity to contribute to two different IEPs, as well as writing three other practice documents. My experiences thus far have prepared me for the challenge of working with students from different backgrounds, of different abilities and with varying learning styles at your school. Thank you for considering me for this position.


    These are a little long and need to be more professionally worded, but I think back to these moments whenever teaching seems less than rewarding.

    The boy in the ripped shirt and dirty shoes had been making my morning difficult. He antagonized his classmates and disrupted the classroom with his loud voice. I welcomed the recess break, but noticed that there was a commotion in the line as I tried to refocus students on the way in. I investigated and it turned that most of the boys and one girl had been taunting him about his appearance. I explained to the students the various reasons why this was inappropriate in the classroom, or outside of the classroom. After the talking too, I used the teacher's classroom management system to give all culpable warnings. Afterwards, the boy only spoke out once more and had reformed his behavior.

    The new boy was crying. Again. Monday, he was sent to call his mother and was picked up. Tuesday, he was crying for more than half an hour despite my tactics and threw up, so he went home again. Today was Wednesday. Wednesday was going to be different and would require something different than what I had attempted. His brother simply taunted the second grader to 'man up' when summoned from another class to assist him. I asked him why he didn't like this school. He gasped out that it wasn't that he didn't like this school, it was that all his friends were there and no one was like him in this school. I drew a bubble map on the board with his name in the middle. His cries grew less frequent as he eyeballed the board. I wrote from LA, then asked those in the class who were from LA to raise their hands, and 4-5 hands shot up. Tears were replaced with bewilderment. I went on to language, sports, etc until the whole board was filled and I had to write in tiny letters that cramped my hands and students began to complain they couldn't read. On Wednesday, the new boy made new friends and finished the day ready and willing to come back Thursday.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2012
  22. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 15, 2012

    I need to be brief because I'm tired and possibly ill.

    Your first paragraph should focus on the specific job and can show your knowledge of the attributes and needs of the district. The sentence about you should appear elsewhere, but not here.

    You seem to have a little difficulty figuring out where to end your sentences: you pile infinitive clause on infinitive clause and coordinate clause on coordinate clause, and you're at pains to show off many, many buzzwords. Keep it simpler: remember that a cover letter is an appetizer, not the whole meal.
     

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