Teaching assistants assist professors and teachers by working with students one-on-one, grading assignments and proctoring tests. Assistants need to be passionate and yearn to help others learn as well as alleviate some of the classroom pressure from the teacher or professor. A strong cover letter that shows your qualities and ambitions will help you land a job as a teaching assistant.
Professional Cover Letter
A standard, professional letter is the most common type of cover letter used by job hunters. If you're a first-time teaching assistant and you're applying for a job at a public school or a state university, stick with a standard professional format and tone. This type is perfect for multinational companies and employers that require high qualifications. According to David Silverman in the "Harvard Business Review," a cover letter should be short, directly relate to the job and should relate back to your resume, highlighting the important items that will land the job. For example, highlight teaching or mentoring experience, and past experiences that demonstrate strong people skills and responsibility. Don't address a professional letter to a generic reader. Instead, just start with "Greetings" or "Good day," and dive right into the introduction of the letter.
Creative Cover Letter
Since competition is tough out there, you want to be noticed right away. If hundreds of applicants apply for a single position, you need to stand out. As a graduate student competing with others for a limited number of assistant teaching positions, you've got to show why you shine above and beyond the others. Creative cover letters are a way to grab attention. You might put a creative tag at the very beginning by telling a personal story, or you might use images to highlight your past experience, formatting the document and text like a magazine article with photos. A video introducing yourself is a way to take creativity to new heights. The video can be linked or attached to your email. If you go this route, dress professionally and stay focused on demonstrating your professional attitude and seriousness about the job, even if you use a little humor or stylization.
Student Cover Letter
If you have no job experience at all, your work is cut out for you. You've got to use your personality and ambition to land the job. Highlight relevant nonwork experience that shows how much you want to build your skills, interact with people and make a difference. Highlight your internships or the community projects on which you've worked. Trusting a person in the classroom who has never taught before takes a certain amount of risk on the employer's part. Remember to demonstrate your desire to learn, and your willingness to be patient and encouraging to students. Teaching assistants are more than just an extra body of support for teachers, they should also ultimately want a career in the classroom.
Analyze Before Writing
No matter what kind of cover letter you use, think it thoroughly before you write. Analyze what seems relevant and offer only your best to the company. If you're applying for a K-12 teaching assistant position, think about what the school needs. It's likely searching for teaching assistants with a passion for educating and mentoring young children, and who also understands the challenges and pressures on grade school teachers. If you're applying for a college job, show a willingness to participate in the campus community and a desire to learn about teaching pedagogy and curriculum building. Use the body of the cover letter to highlight what makes you different from other applicants. Use the closing to thank the employer for her time and consideration. Because you're applying for a teaching job, make sure your letter is perfectly proofread and grammatically correct. It never hurts to have a friend look over your cover letter before you send it off.
Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.