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How to Write a Cover Letter

Rick Bowman - Thursday, August 23, 2012

When going for a teaching job, one thing that you are going to have to do is to create a cover letter to go with your résumé. This may seem like a daunting prospect, but there are some things that you can do in order to make your cover letter a good one. Here are some tips for writing your teacher cover letter.

Address the Letter Correctly – If you are trying to go for a professional approach then you need to make sure that you address your teacher cover letter in the correct manner. Avoid using informal headers like “Hi”. Instead, you should be writing something along the lines of “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern”. Both of these will allow you to seem professional rather than informal.

Make the Letter a Brief One – When writing a teacher cover letter, one of the most common mistakes is writing several pages. The problem with this is that potential employers do not want to read pages and pages of irrelevant filler. Be to the point. Simply outline why you have sent them your résumé, and what you are hoping to accomplish.

Errors Should Not Exist – One of the main things to remember, when it comes to writing a teacher cover letter, is that errors should not be present anywhere in your cover letter. Even something as simple as a spelling mistake can completely ruin your chances of gaining employment. The best way to make sure that there are no errors is to spell check, proof read, and ask other people to proof read as well.

Always Type your Cover Letter – One big mistake that so many people make is handwriting a teacher cover letter. Handwriting a letter is unprofessional, and will definitely not help your chances of gaining employment. Always use a word processor to type your teacher cover letter. In addition, avoid using irregular fonts. Standard fonts like Times New Roman will be sufficient.

As long as you follow these tips then you should have no problem when it comes to creating a successful teacher cover letter. Getting a teaching job can be incredibly difficult, but the more you prepare yourself the better. As long as you create a concise, well written cover letter, you’re headed in the right direction.  

Rick Bowman

How to Set Out a Teaching CV

Rick Bowman - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If you are a fully qualified teacher then you will know how difficult it can actually be to gain employment. However, there are some things that you can do in order to drastically improve your chances. One of the best things that you can do is to make sure that your teaching CV is as good as it can possibly be. Here are some brief instructions on how to set out a teaching CV.

The Top

At the top of your teaching CV you should display the information about yourself in general. For example, you should start off by listing your full name, your address, your phone number and your email address. After this, create a sub heading for an ‘about you’ section. This should include information about yourself in general such as why you think that you would be a good teacher.

The Middle

The middle section of your teacher CV is probably the most important part. Start off by listing your qualifications and training. This will include everything from school and onwards; no qualifications should be left out. The more you list, the better your chances are. You should also list everything about your training such as the length, what you learned, the skills that you obtained and so on. Once you have done this, you should create another sub heading for your experience. Any experience that you have had, no matter what industry, should be included. Skills are skills, and the more you can demonstrate the better.

The End

The end of your teacher CV is basically your last opportunity to mention anything that you think a potential employer would want to hear. You can be a little creative here in the sense that you can put what you like, as long as you are being truthful. For example, you could include information about why you want to be a teacher, what makes you think that you would be a good teacher, and also any future goals that you have. All of this would be of interest to a potential employer.

By setting your teacher CV out in this way you are making it easy to read. You are breaking down each section so that the potential employer is not simply faced with a block of text that has no personality. As long as you are clear, concise and truthful, you should have no issues with your teacher CV.

Rick Bowman 

How to Write a Teacher Resume

Rick Bowman - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Training as a teacher can be a very long and difficult process. However, it can be even more difficult to find a job as a teacher once you are qualified. The key thing is to make sure that your resume is as good as it can possibly be. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing your teacher resume.
  • Experience plays a huge part in successfully landing a teaching job. Many people make the mistake of thinking that their experience is irrelevant; but this is never the case. Any work experience that you have had should go on your résumé, no matter how irrelevant it seems. There are many skills that can be useful in a teaching job, so anything that involves English skills, skills with numbers and also people skills should be included in your teacher resume.
  • When writing a teacher resume, you should always proofread and proofread again. This is not as important when it comes to other jobs, but if you are applying for a teaching position the last thing that you want to do is to include spelling mistakes or other errors. If you want to make sure that it is perfect then ask other people to read it as well.
  • When writing your teacher résumé, you need to make sure that it is laid out in a manner that is easy to read. If your information is all over the place and in huge blocks of text then it is unlikely that your potential employers will be able to get the information that they need.  Set out your information neatly and in small blocks that are broken up with subtext as this will make it much easier to read.
  • Always ensure that your contact information and any other relevant information is up to date. This is very important when writing a teacher résumé. If you leave out information, or if you include the wrong contact information then you are running the very real risk of missing out on a good job opportunity.

These tips should help you when it comes to writing a teaching résumé. The main thing to remember is that the better your résumé is, the higher chance you have of successfully gaining employment. As long as you include quality information and display it professionally then you should be able to create the perfect resume.

Rick Bowman 

Interview Tips for Teachers

Rick Bowman - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Whether you are seeking promotion or applying for a classroom teaching position, the panel continually asks itself the same question – What special qualities, experiences, attributes and potential does this person bring to our school?

The onus is therefore on you as the applicant, to provide the panel with as much information as you can that will whet their appetite and excite them about the prospect of employing you!

Preparation is the key. The best performers at interview are invariably those who put in the time preparing what they want to say. There are various schools of thought on this topic, but the one strategy that stands out above all others – one that is tried and tested – is the use of “stories”. If applying for a teacher or faculty head job the panel might ask you a question like “What do you consider to be the important features of an inclusive classroom?”  Rather than replying with a philosophical treatise, much greater impact can be achieved by telling a “story” as well – “I firmly believe the key to an inclusive classroom is pedagogy and material that will engage and interest every student. And then tell the story: Last year I worked with a Year 9 maths class with a very wide range of abilities. By remodelling and differentiating the curriculum to provide challenges for students at all levels I generated excitement and success for all students in the class. Some specific strategies I used were….”.

The same applies to leadership positions. For example, a question like “How do you motivate staff?” is so broad that it invites responses across a multitude of themes. Focus on one or two ideas. In preparing a response you could begin with one or two key philosophical statements such as “I believe the key to motivating staff is to ensure they are involved in collaborative planning and are recognised for their efforts”. It is very wise then to follow this up with some specifics such as “In the role of faculty head my major task was to engage staff with the new senior maths curriculum. With a number of teachers who were against the new changes because of their controversial nature, I adopted some strategies to dispel their fears, overcome their opposition and gain their support. For example I negotiated a key leadership role for one of these teachers with many years’ experience, recognising her expertise and attending a number of training sessions with her. We then co-presented a staff seminar on the new curriculum. Another strategy I used was…..”

Remember….LESS IS MORE and MORE IS LESS. Avoid too many examples or stories to emphasise a point (two is ample). Make your stories cover a breadth of scenarios, rather than focusing on one area.

And what if you haven’t had the chance to give them your “gold”? At the end of every interview the panel chair will say something like  ”That concludes  our questions, but before we finish, is there anything you would like to add?” Around 90% of interviewees don’t capitalise on this and respond with “No thanks!” or slightly better, they might ask a prepared question. This is an opportunity not to be missed – here’s where you can tell them your golden story! Maybe have something brilliant up your sleeve just for this occasion!

In closing – be sure to do your homework on the school. If it’s a state school, zoom in on the state Department of Education’s priorities which are the basis for the annual school plan. These are sure to be key elements in the school’s future and things worth considering in your responses. If an independent or catholic school – research the website or state-based Cath. Ed site, and talk to colleagues to find out the school’s future directions and how you might bring value to the new role. Many principals are accepting of people calling up to arrange to visit their school – so why not consider this strategy?

All the best for your future success!

Rick Bowman 

The Art of The Cover Letter

Rick Bowman - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In many cases, the cover letter provides the panel (read: potential employer) with the first glimpse of you – your experiences, skills, qualities and most importantly, potential for the new role. In fact, it is often the opening paragraph that sets the scene!

It is therefore essential that you get it right!

In 1935 Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People made the point that “in 90% of conversations, each participant regularly asks themselves the question What can this person do for ME?” While this may sound quite narcissistic, egomaniacal and severely self-centred, it is worth noting that this is the mindset of potential employers and panels as they fastidiously burrow through your hopefully gripping masterpiece!

Prior to applying for your new job, ensure you read the job description thoroughly. If it is sufficiently detailed and clearly presented, you should gain valuable insights into the panel’s expectations with regard to your future role, and in turn, some helpful ideas as to how to style your letter and résumé (CV). If appropriate, you may wish to contact the school and seek an appointment with the principal. This serves a number of valuable purposes – e.g. not only finding out more about the school, but most importantly – giving the principal a face to attach to the written application!  

And so to the cover letter.... this needs to be primarily driven by your new job – it should be styled with your new role clearly in mind and the language you choose should reflect this. For example - if you are applying for a leadership role within a school, then your letter needs to strongly reflect a leadership perspective – i.e. you need to talk primarily in a strategic, rather than operational, mode.  Or if you are seeking a position within a church-related school, then it may be wise to include details of your family, religious commitment, community work, personal beliefs and the like.

Like Dale Carnegie’s conversationalists, panels usually ask themselves two major questions:

  • Why does this person want to work for US?
  • What can this person do for OUR SCHOOL?

Your opening paragraph should answer the first of these questions. Your penultimate paragraph should answer the second.

In the opening paragraph – talk about your current job and how you find it rewarding and enjoyable. But  make the point that your new job will be even more rewarding and give a reason why. For example....

I find my present role as a teacher of Physics especially rewarding and exciting, having had the opportunity of introducing many interesting technologies into my classroom. I now feel that it is time for me to accept the challenge of leading and working with my new colleagues as together we work towards embracing new changes in curriculum and pedagogy.

This paragraph really answers both the panel’s questions – its real strength is that it gives the reader a window into one attribute the applicant could bring to the school.

In Paragraphs 2 and 3 you may wish to choose some major achievements and discuss these in some detail. This is your opportunity to talk in the mode of the  new job. So if you’re presently a classroom teacher and applying for a faculty head (secondary) or assistant principal or year level coordinator (primary) – make sure you choose examples at this level. If you are already a middle manager and applying for a senior job such as deputy or principal – then you should style your discussions using examples that mirror whole school involvements.  Remember though – your CV is the place to spell these out in detail. In your cover letter, just provide a brief description – enough to make the panel want to read on.

Paragraph 4 (penultimate) provides you the opportunity of discussing something you are passionate about and indicating that this is something you can bring to the new school. Consider for example this excerpt from a letter written by a current Faculty Head (Maths) aspiring to the role of Deputy Principal in a high school....

I am a very firm believer in the importance of teaching cognitive skills as a part of every curriculum area.  I see thinking skills as, like Literacy, Numeracy and Technology, a cornerstone of future success for every student. In my present role I have mentored teachers across the faculty in implementing aspects of Blooms Taxonomy into open-ended mathematical investigations. These have provided students with many valuable skills such as forming and validating hypotheses. This is a wonderfully exciting part of the learning journey and one which I would greatly enjoy sharing with colleagues on a whole-school basis.

The final paragraph (Paragraph 5) is the conclusion – this provides the brief closure, foreshadows the CV (résumé) and is the place to thank the panel for the opportunity of applying for the position.

When you’re done, read and re-read your application. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader ....

  • Is there evidence of achievement at the next level?
  • Have you explained why you’re applying for the new job?
  • Is your cover letter reflective of the nature and culture of the school?
  • Have you given them something to whet their appetite – what you can do for them?

If your answer to each of these questions is “Yes” – then you’re well on the way!

Rick Bowman

 

Tips For An Outstanding Teacher Resume

Rick Bowman - Monday, January 24, 2011

TIPS FOR AN OUTSTANDING TEACHER RESUME

How do I develop an eye-catching CV that will get me an interview?

What is the best layout for a teacher resume?

Whether applying for a teaching job, a middle management role or a senior position such as deputy principal or principal, the fundamentals of an outstanding teacher CV remain the same:

  • First – put yourself in the shoes of the employer and read the job description thoroughly: What are they looking for? What value added and special experience can I bring to the new school? How can I highlight my experiences to match their expectations and the specific qualities and characteristics they are seeking? Be sure to emphasis your outstanding achievements and special qualities and thread these through your resume.
  • Talk yourself up! This may sound like trumpet-blowing but you have to promote yourself, your achievements and most importantly, your potential. Don’t be afraid to use the “I” word! Talk about what you can bring to the school. Not many applicants bother with this.
  • Highlight your most recent achievements and, most importantly, your potential to enhance your new school:
If applying for a classroom teacher position, mention some programs or units of work you have written, committees you have worked on, extracurricular involvements, music and sport, making information relevant to your new role wherever possible. Remember your new employer will be looking for more than a classroom teacher -they will want someone who can enrich and contribute to the school community. If applying for higher positions, then highlight your leadership experiences – chairing committees, initiating new practices, policies and programs, training colleagues – things you have done that have made a real difference to your workplace.
  •  Emphasis students and people. Never lose sight of what schools are all about. Potential employers always look for the candidate with strong interpersonal skills and commitment to students.
  • Ensure your CV is presented well. Check fundamentals such as spelling, grammar and punctuation, font size, indenting, dot points and paragraphing for consistency. Ensure you follow the advertisement’s guidelines for your CV otherwise use the following headings in order:  
Personal Details – name, address, contacts. These can be inserted at top of Page 1 as a header thus saving space for the more important material to follow.A brief statement outlining your career goals, educational philosophy (if applying for a teaching job) and leadership philosophy (if applying for higher positions)Qualifications and Training. Degrees, diplomas, relevant major in service training.Career Summary. This forms the bulk of your CV. set out in reverse chronological order with major emphasis on most recent then decreasing the detail the further back you go. Under your most recent role, insert 4-5 major achievements or involvements (one paragraph each, indented and dot pointed with a smaller font size than the main body). If a beginning teacher, then talk in detail about some experiences you gained on your practicum/s. Other involvements and achievements including community or volunteer activities.Referees. Names, positions, contact details. Usually 2-3.
  •  When all is done, make sure you check with referees to ensure you have their full support and give them each a copy of your cover letter and resume. Ask someone you trust to cast a critical eye over your résumé to ensure that you have a truly high quality, dynamic document that will maximise your chances of gaining an interview.

Rick Bowman