New teachers are eager to start teaching their first-class, and experienced teachers may want to apply for another teaching job. The challenge of writing a cover letter to accompany the resume could almost convince potential candidates not to apply for the teaching job.
Is a cover letter necessary, especially when a school doesn’t explicitly request one? Can a teacher send the resume without a cover letter?
Always accompany the resume with a cover letter. There are three exceptions. The first is when the job advertisement stipulates explicitly, no cover letter. If the ad doesn’t say anything about a cover letter, include a cover letter in the application. The second exception is when an online application form doesn’t provide space for a cover letter. The third exception is if the cover letter is so poorly written that it will do more harm than good.
What’s the Point of a Cover Letter?
A teacher applicant who is serious about getting a specific teaching job will take the time to write a good cover letter. Many job interviewers would agree. Applications without a cover letter send a message that the applicant wasn’t that serious about the job.
Cover letters allow applicants to stand out from all the other candidates. It is the chance to accentuate skills, experience, passion, enthusiasm, and any other aspect that wasn’t successfully covered in the resume.
Imagine picking up a book without the cover page, it merely has the title and an unknown author’s name. The book next to it has a cover page that enthusiastically explains what the book is about and who the author is. Which one of these books would you like to read?
A well-written cover letter may lead to an interview, whereas no cover letter or a poorly written will have the opposite effect. It is the first impression a potential employer receives from an applicant that motivates them to discard their application or call them in for an interview.
A teacher writing a cover letter can paint the picture of who the interviewer will meet during an interview. It lays the foundation for an interview. A cover letter introduces the applicant teacher; the interview is continuing the conversation started in the letter.
Sections of a Cover Letter
The applicant’s name and contact details (phone number and email address) should be at the top of the letter. Then it’s easy for the interviewer to contact you instead of them needing to search for the phone number or email address. If they can’t find the phone number, they won’t waste time but will move on to the next applicant’s letter.
Insert the date you write the cover letter. Adding a date shows professionalism without being too formal or too casual.
Address the cover letter to a person, the person who is most likely going to read the cover letter and resume. If no name is mentioned in the advertisement, then find out who in the school district is responsible for interviewing and hiring candidates. Alternatively, address it to the school principal.
Include the school’s name and address.
Salutation Sets The Tone
The greeting and introduction set the tone of the letter (and interview). It should be professional but not formal or too casual. A friendly, approachable tone will inspire the same response. Keep in mind the letter is the start of the conversation that will continue during the interview.
Avoid impersonal, casual, formal or too generic greetings like “To whom it may concern,” “Hi,” “To Mr. X, principal of XYZ School,” or “Superintendent of ABC Schools.”
Choose a generic salutation like “Greetings” that’s not too stiff, too impersonal, or too familiar.
Use the correct tone of voice that’s not too formal or too informal. Avoid falling into the trap of familiarity, especially when applying via email. An email is a convenient modern mailing method for sending a professional cover letter.
First Grab and Hold Their Attention
Each sentence in the letter should entice the reader forward in wanting to continue reading the letter. Start strong with an attention–grabbing opening line. If the first paragraph is the only paragraph read, does it portray you as a likely candidate?
The first paragraph should include:
- The reason for the letter stating clearly the position you’re applying for.
- Why you want the job at that school. Include researched information about the school.
- Your passion for your work. Explain why you like to teach.
- Mention 2-3 qualifications or skills that portrays why you’re the right person for the job.
Second Highlight Your Contribution
The school knows what they have to offer you. They want to see what you can contribute to solve their problem and make their school a better school.
Elaborate with concrete examples, the skills, and qualifications mentioned in the first paragraph. Focus on the strengths and not weaknesses. Highlight and explain the experience you have in the required ability they need. If you don’t have the experience, don’t apologize but accentuate where your skills overlap with their requirements.
Here is the opportunity to brag about your accomplishments and skills without being obnoxious. Imagine someone who knows you, and respects your abilities, tells the interviewer why you are the perfect candidate for the teaching job. What and how would they highlight your skills, experience, and abilities relevant to this job?
A lame ending may lead to a lame reaction—no interview. Start strong and end the letter with a definite conclusion. Reiterate your interest in the teaching position, what you can offer, and how they can contact you. Lead them to the resume by mentioning it. If you are relocating and would be visiting the area at a particular time in search of accommodation, suggest setting up a possible interview during your visit.
End the Cover Letter
End the cover letter with a complimentary close like sincerely or an appropriate synonym. Follow the complimentary closing with your full name. Printed letters should leave space for the candidate’s signature above the printed name.
A postscript always draws attention and has a twofold function. If a person skipped the letter and read the postscript, it should give enough information to entice them to read the message. If they’ve read the letter, the postscript should be that final word that convinces them to interview the candidate.
Tips for Writing A Teacher Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter shouldn’t be an afterthought. An excellent cover letter will lead to an interview and create a positive attitude toward the candidate.
Decipher the Advertisement
The advertisement contains a wealth of information you can use in the cover letter. Avoid copying the posting but mimic its language in the letter. Repeat appropriate phrases. Find the skills and experience you have that coincides with the ad requirements. It may not be the exact qualifications, but you may have skills and experiences in other areas that overlap with what they are looking for.
Customize the Cover Letter
Customize the cover letter. Never use a generic cover letter for all applications but modify each letter for the specific job and school. Use a good template but adapt it for each application. Explain in the letter why you would be a good fit for that teaching position in that specific school. Research the relevant school online and use that information to tailor the message.
Relevant and Related Experience
Schools want teachers who relate to their students and extract the best out of the student. Mention any activities outside the classroom that accentuates your ability to work with kids. New teachers and teachers with little experience could use non-teaching activities to show their skills and potential.
Certificates and Qualifications
Indicate all certificates, training, and qualifications relevant to the teaching job you’re applying for. Make sure you mention the certifications required in the applications. If the job posting doesn’t specify additional certificates or training, but you have certifications that relate to the job, list them.
Keep it Short
Avoid repeating the content in the resume. Use the letter to highlight and draw attention to specific skills and abilities. Each sentence counts. Don’t write an essay.
Spelling and Grammar
Proofread the letter. Make sure there aren’t any spelling errors or grammar mistakes. Often a person misses their mistakes because they read what they were thinking and not the actual written words. Have someone else check for errors too.
Avoid Rushing the Cover Letter
Set enough time aside to plan, write, and edit the cover letter. Avoid writing the letter and sending it off in a rush. Write the cover letter and set it aside for a few hours. Then reread it with fresh eyes. Ask someone to read the letter aloud and listen to what you’ve written.
It’s Not About You
Write the letter with the focus on what you can do for the school, not what they can do for you. They aren’t interested in how you will benefit from them. They want to know how your contribution will enhance their school.
Be Specific and Focused
Every sentence should focus on potential job requirements. What are the skills and experience relevant to the job? Avoid listing all your skills and experiences; be specific. Consider all your experiences, teaching, and non-teaching activities that relate to the new position.
The resume and cover letter should use the same formatting guidelines.
- One Page. Cover letters should be a few paragraphs that fit on one page or two.
- Readable Font. Use simple fonts and font sizes that are easy to read. Fonts like Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, or Verdana are good examples and work well in 12–point font size.
- Standard Margins. The top, bottom, left, and right margins should be 1 inch each. If the cover letter doesn’t fit on one page, adjust the top and bottom margins slightly.
- White Space. Cover letters with plenty of white space read easier. Leave line spaces between paragraphs.