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How to Write a Personal Statement for Teaching
In addition to your resume, cover letter and artifacts of student work or other evidence of your teaching background, you'll typically submit a personal statement or a "teaching statement" that outlines your philosophy of teaching. Like all job application materials, this statement needs to be tailored to each job for which you're applying, so that you can highlight the skills, qualifications and experiences that a particular school is seeking.
A lot of teaching statements are too vague or too general, suggests The Teaching Center at Columbia University. Instead of writing a blanket statement that could work for any job, research the educational institution where you're applying to find out more about its educational philosophy, textbooks you might be using and the population of students with whom you'll work, so that you can tailor your statement to the needs of the institution. Don't rehash what's on your resume, reminds The Teaching Center, but instead, aim to add details that talk about specific experiences you've had that have shaped your personal and teaching philosophy. This, like all other application materials, is a chance to sell yourself.
The entire statement is generally one to two pages long, written in the first person. Use the opening paragraph to grab the reader's attention. Often, this is done by starting off with a story about your past, or an experience that shaped you or made you into the teacher you are today. That might include a story about a favorite teacher, a summer camp experience that shaped you, or a student with whom you've worked, for example. Paint a picture for the reader, talking about the sights, sounds, smells or feelings you had during that experience. In this introductory paragraph, you're introducing that "thread" of a story that you can use throughout the rest of the statement.
The Body of the Statement
The body of the statement is your chance to discuss your educational philosophy, including the learning objectives you have for your students, the techniques you use to accomplish those goals and to motivate students, and challenges you've had in meeting those goals. Continue to weave in the personal story you introduced in the opening paragraph to highlight significant milestones you've reached or how you've drawn on past experiences throughout your career.
For example, you might talk about how your favorite teacher's methods helped you develop specific learning objectives in your own classroom, or how your experience at summer camp helped you learn specific strategies for dealing with conflict in the classroom. Use specific examples that show the reader how you teach. As always, use examples that will help to demonstrate skills that particular employer is looking for.
A Strong Conclusion
The entire document should have illustrated why you'd be a good fit for a particular school, but you can also use the conclusion to say explicitly why you think you'd be a good hire for the institution to which you're applying. When possible, tie the beginning to the end, finding a way to share one last detail about the story you brought up in the beginning. For example, you might mention a quote you learned at summer camp or a piece of advice you always give to your students before a test. School principals or human resources hiring managers will have to sort through many of these statements; keep yours as brief and to the point as possible, editing out any information you mentioned in your resume that doesn't need to be repeated.
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Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.
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