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Cover Letters: Finding the Balance

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Writing a Cover Letter is a tricky balance. It can't quite be a commercial for yourself--too pushy and self-absorbed--yet it must convey enough about you as a person and as a potential teacher to grab the employer's attention to keep reading. It can't be too long, they will never read to the end--but not too short that it doesn't really say anything. It should also communicate that you have done some research on the school to which you are applying. The cover letter is really the only place in your application where you can demonstrate that you've done your homework about the school and its community. And finally, a cover letter is as much about conveying those pieces of information as it is an example of your writing and communication skills.

In short, a cover letter is the first impression you make on an employer...and you know what they say about first impressions.

Luckily, once you have a formula down that you think works, it's easy to make small (but important) adjustments depending on where you are applying. Here is a brief list of things to consider:

• If you have a contact at the school to which you are applying and it is appropriate to include their name, do it! And do it right up front, in the first sentence. Networking and knowing the right people always helps.
• Do some research on the school. Visit the website, search online for any articles written about the school, talk to people who work at the school, have kids who attend the school or are familiar with it.
• Briefly mention your most recent and relevant work experience. Consider a bulleted list of your relevant skills (this can be pulled from your resume) and what you could offer the school--bullets are easy to read and break up the letter so it doesn't look like one long paragraph after another.
• Include something about your philosophy as a teacher so the employer gets a brief glimpse into what type of teacher you are. Make sure your philosophy fits with the school without compromising who you really are, otherwise perhaps you should not be applying to such a school.
• Don't forget to review spelling and grammar--make sure it is correct. This sounds obvious but I think we've all sent something out there only to find a typo or a misspelling too late. Have at least 2-3 people proofread your letter before sending.
• Write in the present tense whenever possible.
Once you find that balance and have a format that you like, make those small adjustments, PROOFREAD and start applying!!!!

Susan Fitzpatrick
Vice President

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