How to Write A Cover Letter to Apply for Teaching Jobs Abroad
I have to be honest, most of the cover letters I read are exactly the same. I spend less than 30 seconds skim-reading them and skip ahead to the resume or CV. But this one made me stop, read it slowly, read it again, and then remember why I do what I do with Classroom Canada.
So, I asked the teacher if I could share it with you and she agreed. I've made some changes to make it anonymous, but I hope it helps you when writing your own cover letter.
I am currently accepting applications from teachers & teaching assistants who wish to work in London, England in April/May 2010 and September/October 2010.
My edits & comments are in blue.
Dear Ms. Westcott,
Thanks for finding my name and using it. "To whom it may concern," is a personal pet peeve of mine, especially when it's so easy to find the employer's name online these days. So already, I'm happy to read this cover letter!
I am currently a B. Ed. student at ABC University in Canada, and I will be completing my program in Elementary Education in May 2010. I stumbled upon your blog this past summer while researching job opportunities for after graduation, and Classroom Canada really caught my attention.
This is a great introduction paragraph for a couple of reasons:
1. It's clear what she is studying to teach. You won't believe how many cover letters don't state what the teacher actually teaches.
2. She makes it clear that she's done her research, and specifically wants to teach with Classroom Canada. I want to know more so I read on. That's the sign of a great cover letter!
Since returning to ABC University for my B Ed, I have continued to try to learn more about life teaching in inner city London. I have subscribed to TES Connect updates, watched Teacher.tv videos, read your “Guide to Teaching in London”, and followed blogs by current Classroom teachers making the move to London. A friend and I also did a research project for our Individual Differences Conference in which we worked on strategies for teaching English Language Learners, and with London in mind, I chose to focus on strategies for teaching in linguistically diverse classrooms.
I want to clone this teacher. She has done her research and shows me what she reads. Already I know we're going to have great discussions about teaching in London and I haven't even spoken with her yet. You don't have to say the exact same thing (in fact, if you do, I'll know you just copied this one!), but showing that you have done your research into teaching in London & our company really helps your application. It saves me time from having to teach you, plus I have written it all down here in the blog & ebook so it is really easy for you.
Although I may not have experience teaching in an inner city context, I do have ample experience working, studying and volunteering abroad, which I believe reflects my ability to adapt when faced with new and challenging situations. Most recently, I spent a year studying in Africa, during which time I volunteered in a Grade 1-2 class at a local school for street children. In January I will leave my comfort zone in the ABC Region, to move to the Really Remote Area of Canada to complete my final 13 week practicum for my B. Ed. I am flexible, I am a quick learner, and most importantly I love teaching and learning, and pushing myself to take on new challenges.
This paragraph shows that she's adaptable, flexible, eager and has experience abroad. Any experience abroad will help your application to teach abroad. Obviously, working with street children is going to spark my interest, particularly since we recruit for teachers in inner city London, but any volunteer or work abroad will do this equally well.
I have always been very involved outside the classroom, playing sports and participating in many community projects, and I look forward to becoming just as involved in the schools I will one day teach at. I also have an interest in learning different languages: I learned to speak French while studying and working in France, have a basic knowledge of Spanish, and picked up some Xhosa while in Africa. In addition I have taught ESL in Quebec for a number of years, on top of my practicum requirements for my Education program.
Great! I love to hear more about you as an individual. What you love, what you do outside of school, what languages you speak - all of these factors in your life make you a better teacher, so I want to know more.
Although I had not initially considered teaching in London after graduation, Classroom Canada really caught my eye. You get so much positive feedback, and I love the supportive atmosphere and great advice you provide for your new teachers coming to London. I would really look forward to having the opportunity to speak to you about the possibility of joining your team in the near future, even as soon as May 2010.
Again, she comes back to Classroom Canada and specifically working with us. This shows that she didn't just write the same cover letter & change the name above for the job. She wants to work specifically with us, so now, we want to work specifically with her. See how that works? It's so easy when you really think about it!
Thank you for taking the time to consider my application,
You're more than welcome. Thank you for taking the time to write your cover letter!
The only changes I would make to this cover letter would be to remove the "Although I don't have..." statements. It's clear that she's a new teacher from the first paragraph, so pointing out a lack of experience or specific direction isn't necessary. But I didn't even notice that the first 3 times I read it, so it's not a big deal.
Any questions, comments, suggestions? Please share your thoughts below!
Other Posts About CV's/Resumes/Cover Letters:
How to Write a Teacher CV/Resume
How to Write a Follow-Up Email After Submitting Your CV and Attending a Teacher Job Fair
Teacher Photos for CVs/Resumes
When Should You Apply for Teaching Jobs in the UK
If you would like to become one of our outstanding teachers or teaching assistants in London, just apply through our website. Also, be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. Sign up for our newsletters and help spread the word to your friends and colleagues.
Last month, I spent the bulk of my column pointing out small, but significant, mistakes in introductory e-mails sent by prospective candidates for teaching positions at my school.
Needless to say, none of the applicants whose e-mails I commented upon in my column got to the interview stage. In fact, as a re-cap of what I said last week, most employers are inundated by resumes in response to Ajarn.com job postings, and we are looking for any legitimate reason to filter out certain applicants.
Applying for positions that do not exist, applying from outside the country when the ad asks for local applicants only, applying for a position advertised for native English-speakers only when you are not even in the grey area, writing in incorrect English (or with typos and misspellings), and sending e-mails as couples who expect to be interviewed and hired jointly are all legitimate reasons to delete applicants' e-mails from the in-box.
Now on to the next important step of the job application process, and the document most employers peruse before anything else - the cover letter.
In this day and age, with mass e-mails and tremendous demands on employers' time, some people have quite reasonably assumed that cover letters lack the importance they used to. In fact, the very service my column appears on is an example of a job search device that by virtue of its very structure seems to discourage cover letters.
Simply click a button and, "BOOM," 37 odd employers have your resume and a short note from Phil saying you are interested in working with them! Convenient, yes. Effective, not necessarily!
I am not saying that electronic mass mailings for teaching positions are completely useless. I understand that some employers, perhaps an increasing number, will disregard the lack of a cover letter and move right past the cookie-cutter e-mail from Phil announcing your "interest" and dig right into the cookie-cutter resume online.
I am not one of those employers, however, and my sense is there are quite a few of us who look for, or at least appreciate, a bit more initiative.
Having perhaps bitten that hand that feeds by complaining about the cookie-cutter style of e-mails and resumes from Ajarn.com, I will now try to mend fences a bit by noting that even in the world of mass-mailed, electronically-generated expressions of interest in teaching employment, there is some room fro creativity. I urge you to use this room, and to do so wisely.
First and foremost, in sticking to this month's topic, take a few minutes to write a couple paragraphs to personalize the Ajarn.com e-mail containing the link to your resume. In particular, make me aware of the fact that you actually read my posting, know the name of my school (correctly spelled!), and have a legitimate interest in hearing back from ME rather than just hearing back from any old desperate English Program coordinator or language school head teacher who has lost his latest teacher and is tired of covering classes! Make it genuine, and show some creativity.
Second, if you have the time and are willing to invest it in writing a serious cover letter (which I and many others request in our postings), there are a few more pointers to make it both effective and memorable (as opposed to ineffective and memorable, which I see all the time!):
1. The salutation should read "Dear Sir/Ma'am:" or something equally as gender neutral (Dear Hiring Coordinator, etc.), when you do not know the person's name or sex. I am amazed at how many letters starting with "Dear Ms. Crossley:," I receive every time I post a job! I am a fairly liberal guy, and don't really take offense, but it doesn't really get things started off on the right foot to pop me in the side of the head with a "Dear Ms." before I even get to read your letter! I know Thailand is the place for sex changes - but let me decide when and if I am ready, don't do it for me, ok?
2. The letter itself should be relatively short and to the point. I would suggest no more than 3-5 paragraphs. The first paragraph notes your interest in the specific school and specific job listed, and reinforces that your qualifications meet the qualifications sought by the employer. Here is a short example:
I write to express my interest in the M.4 English teaching position listed on Ajarn.com. I am a native-speaker of English from Canada, with two years of teaching experience in Asia. I am now based in Thailand and seek a challenging position at a school such as yours. I hold a B.A. in History from the University of Ottawa, and have recently completed a TEFL course. Thus, I am confident that I more than satisfy the requirements listed for the position. Your advertisement sparked great interest because I enjoy teaching at the M.4-M.6 level, and would prefer to be in a school like Potisarnpittayakorn, where teachers have ample support to carry out their work."
3. The meat of the letter in the most important. The second, and sometimes third and fourth, paragraphs are the BEEF. They should NOT simply restate what is on your resume. I can read your resume if I want that. Instead, an effective cover letter ties your experience to your suitability for the position listed. So, when you sit down to write the letter, look closely at the ad, or think a bit about what the position entails if the ad doesn't provide adequate detail. For example, take an actual cover letter I got that reads:
"I spent two years teaching in Korea and a year in Japan, so I am familiar with Asian students."
Sorry...ineffective, and as we who teach in Thailand know, just plain wrong. A better sentence would be:
"I have spent two years teaching students in the same age group as the students at your school, and my interactive and creative teaching style suits this age group well."
I could spend a lot more time on this point, but I hope you get the idea.
Also, please use this portion of the cover letter to explain motivation for seeking the job and to clarify any concerns that arise from your resume. If you just left a lucrative international school and are applying for a job with half the salary, tell the prospective employer why. And if you have gaps in your resume, or have switched jobs a dozen times, explain why!
4. The penultimate paragraph should ask any relevant questions you may have that were not addressed in the advertisement. DO NOT ask things that were covered in the posting! Again, I am amazed by how many people say in their cover letter, "Could you please tell me some more about the job?" Sure, but I would rather tell someone who read the ad and knows specifically what to ask!
My ads tend to be quite detailed, so this especially annoying for me. Still, I am sure most of us can fashion a better question that this. For example, how about asking whether a curriculum is in place, whether textbooks are provided to each student, or whether there is a Thai coordinator in each class? Think of a serious question or two to show you care about the environment you seek to work in!
5. The last paragraph is the summation and the closing. Short but sweet. Reiterate your strong interest and qualifications for the job. Express your availability (at the EMPLOYER'S CONVENIENCE!) for an interview. Thank the reader for his or her consideration and let them know you are looking forward to hearing from them (and by what means you prefer they contact you). Simple...here's an example:
"Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. I am eager to meet with you to discuss this position, as I believe I would be an asset to your teaching team and would enjoy working at Potisarnpittayakorn School. I am available to further discuss my qualifications and availability at your convenience and can be most easily contacted by mobile phone at 0X-XXX-XXXX. I look forward to your call."
Ok that's about it for this month. Cover letters seem to be extremely difficult for many people, but I hope the tips above help out! Remember, it's the cover letter than connects the resume to the position offered, and makes you stand out in a pack of viable teaching candidates. It's a chance to show your skills in the English language (or lack thereof, so be careful), and to make an early impression on the prospective employer. Now, happy writing!
You might be interested in....
Making your resume count - How to get the best from your ajarn on-line resume
How to land that teaching job - Five tips to make you stand out from the crowd
How to be a successful teacher in Thailand
Coming to live and teach in Thailand? - You can do it but have a plan!
E-mailing for jobs - Doing it the right way!