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How to Get your First Teaching Job Part II: The Cover Letter

This is a series for aspiring teachers (particularly those who wish to work at community colleges)

Part I: Job Hunting Advice for New Teachers

There are millions of resources out there for teachers for writing your resume or CV. The cover letter is just as important (if not more important) than your CV.

What’s the difference between a resume and a cover letter? 

The CV/resume tells your potential employer that you are qualified for the position. Your cover letter is your elevator pitch that explains why you are the best person for the job. Your cover letter should be the lovechild of a narrative essay and the copy of an advertisement. A strategically told story with a call to action. In short, your resume shows what you are and your cover letter shows who you are and how you got there. So how do we make this happen?

Start simple, work smarter

When you are fresh out of grad school looking at different job openings, everything can start to feel overwhelming. Most job resources will tell you to write a new cover letter for each job posting. Going through the whole writing process for each and every job you apply for is wasted effort. I recommend creating generic templates for different categories of jobs, then tailoring them to specific job postings. But before we even begin drafting, we are going to:

  1. Categorize the types of jobs we are aiming for
  2. Research ! Research ! Research !
  3. Look at common descriptors that each category of job is searching for
  4. Make a list of those descriptors for each category
  5. Compare with our resume

Thinking through the eyes of a potential employer is a powerful tool we can use to get our first job. They are looking for specific things. For teachers, we are going to be highlighting our core teaching philosophy and praxis, our competence, and our humanity. We will tailor this to specific English programs, depending on what their mission is. For example, if I am applying for a summer job teaching vacation English to tourists, I’m not going to highlight my rigorous academic writing syllabus in my cover letter. This cover letter will not be appealing for a summer program for tourists that want to learn speaking and listening for traveling around the States.

Get to the point!

I mentioned that cover letters are like elevator pitches: they should be short enough to be understood within the time it takes to ride an elevator. So, unlike an essay that has an elaborate introduction, we will start with a short and to-the-point introduction:

  • Greetings, explaining who or where you found the information to contact the hiring manager/committee
  • Who you are, what you are applying for, and why you are the best person for the job

Here’s an example from one of my own cover letters:

Dear Hiring Committee,

I am applying for the part time Non Credit ESL instructor position at Community College. I graduated with my MS TESOL Master’s degree at Cal State Fullerton in 2016.  I have been teaching noncredit ESL grammar classes at Community College as well as credit classes at Community College. I believe that I have the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm necessary for this position.

Back it up!

Now that we have our main thesis, we will need to back it up in short paragraphs. Structure is paramount to a short, punchy paragraph. Here’s a refresher on paragraphs:

    • Topic sentence that refers back to a specific quality you mentioned in the thesis.
    • Specific evidence/examples supporting that quality
    • Explanation as to how this has improved your skills as a teacher
    • Transition into more specific evidence/examples
    • More explanation
    • Transition to next paragraph

If you are fresh out of grad school, you may not have teaching experience to fall back on. Tutoring also will help you get a teaching job. It shows that you are still working with students, and hopefully applying what you are learning in school to the real world. You will have to show what you learned in class, and how that will help you as a future teacher. Here’s another example showing the knowledge part of my thesis:

Besides the core classes of the MS TESOL program which include speaking/listening and reading/writing, I have taken two relevant elective pedagogy classes offered in my program: Pedagogical Grammar and Teaching Vocabulary in the ESL/EFL context.  I received A’s in both of these classes and immediately started applying the knowledge gained in these classes to my own teaching and tutoring jobs. Celce-Murcia’s book on grammar will never leave my possession since it taught me how to teach articles and verb tenses. At my job as an ESL tutor at Coastline, students will wait for me with their most complicated grammar questions, and even the other tutors love to ask me to settle grammar disputes.  The vocabulary class has also been an asset to my professional development. As an ESL tutor, I can quickly diagnose the root vocabulary issue that students may have. Moreover, I do a lecture on vocabulary word knowledge for my Freshman English class, as well, to help them become more aware of the intricacies of their own word knowledge.

Don’t forget your manners

At the end of your cover letter, you should be sure to thank the hiring manger/committee for their time, and ask them to contact you should they have any questions.

Example:

Thank you for taking the time to review my application. I look forward to going over my qualifications with you in person. If you have any questions regarding my application, please feel free to contact me via phone or email.

If you are an aspiring teacher, or looking for a job, and have questions you would like me to answer, please let me know.

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