A cover letter is the letter that accompanies your resume and introduces you to the employer. A good cover letter demonstrates your interest in the position and motivates the reader to look at your resume. You want your cover letter to create enough interest that you will be called for an interview. While your resume gives detailed information about your accomplishments in different positions, your credentials and other key skills, it doesn’t have as much power to highlight your strengths, communicate your good fit for a particular position, or convey your passion for teaching. Your cover letter must do that.
Body of letter – 1 or 2 paragraphs
Spelling and grammar
Employers receive many applications for each position, which leaves very little time for thorough examination of each package. If your letter is poorly written, with spelling and grammar errors, the employer may not even look at your resume. Always proofread your letter a number of times and have someone else read it before submitting it to the posting.
Don’t overdo the length. If you overfill the page, it will be overwhelming and your good points are less likely to stand out. Writing this kind of letter in such as short space does require lots of practice and looking at many examples to get a sense of the expectations. Once again, having someone from the educational field proofread this for you is invaluable.
Use the active voice
Using an active verb tense (often referred to as "active voice") makes a strong statement in your cover letter. Consider these two statements:
In my position at Calgary College, a training manual on “Behavioural Management for Teachers” was developed and written.
I developed and wrote a training manual on “Behavioural Management for Teachers” at Calgary College.
The active voice sends a stronger message about your role in the development of the manual, and will be taken very seriously.
Positive Words to Enhance Cover Letters
From Employment Handbook for Teachers Student Services OISE/UT
Trying to put “too much” in
Many applicants tend to write their cover letters in the form of a list of characteristics.
For example: “I am efficient, work well on a team, am organized, a good communicator (both verbal and written), create engaging lessons for my students, believe in diversity, utilize differentiated instruction effectively, and plan a good balance of formative and summative assessment, and have always participated in co-curricular activities.”
Solution: Aim for a balance in which you draw on examples from your previous experience, such as practicum experience, or previous teaching experience abroad. Aim to show the reader the ways in which you have demonstrated these key qualities in the past and how that makes you a perfect fit for the organization.
For example (rewriting above example): “While teaching linguistically and culturally diverse students in the XYZ International Academy, I was able to use differentiated instruction and unit plans that incorporated multi-media to successfully engage students who had previously not enjoyed science.”
Voice of letter lacking in confidence
For Example: “Using my knowledge of science, I think I would be able to create an effective program to reach students at risk.” or, “I hope to have the opportunity to convince you of my worthiness in a future interview.”
Solution: Principals want to hire someone who is ready to walk through the doors and teach. You need to project this kind of confidence and use linguistic structures that convey it. As Wally Moffat recommends, “Do NOT use I think, I might, maybe.” Instead, “Make positive statements with action verbs.”
For Example (rewriting the two above statements): “Given my proven track record working with English language learners and students struggling in science, I am eager to join your team of teachers working on a program for at risk students.” or, “I welcome the opportunity to speak further with you about my possible contributions to your students and school community.”
It is important to recognize that the culture of job application procedures and interviews varies from culture to culture. What is expected here in terms of how to present yourself may feel uncomfortably like “bragging” or seem quite inappropriate in the context of your own culture. Trying to become as aware as possible of what the contrasts in expectations are between your country of origin and Canadian culture can help you, but that is only the first step. Speaking to other teachers facing the same challenges is invaluable, both those from your own community and others. Who do you know here in Canada or the States from your own background who has faced these same challenges some time ago? Their advice and feedback can also support you.
There are a number of resources available to help you.
Getting the Job you Want! by Wally Moffat, published in 2000 by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), focuses on the education field, so it is a very useful resource for those applying to positions in education. Wally Moffat was a board superintendent in charge of hiring, as well as a principal, and took part in an estimated 1,000 interviews over the course of his career.
Career Bookmarks is a section of the website of the Toronto Public Library that provides numerous links to job search and employment-related resources. Here you will see a link titled Cover Letter. Click on this link for available resources. There are a number of websites listed in the Cover Letter section, with those of Canadian origin having a flag beside them. Pay special attention to the list at the bottom of available library resources, which include a list of eight related books, including their own annotation to help you decide which is best for you.
Beatty, Richard. The perfect cover letter, 3rd ed. New York: Wiley, 2004.
This popular author gives lots of hints and samples for creating cover letters. This practical how-to-manual shows you step-by-step how to create highly effective letters designed to get the interview you want.