Your motivation to be a teacher is obvious to you, but may not be clear from your resume. But, your reasons for wanting to become an elementary school teacher probably include other factors than just obtaining a paycheck. Whether you are applying for a position at a private school or a public school system, a well-constructed cover letter can land you the interview—and possibly the job! While a resume details your education and work history, a cover letter differentiates you from the other applicants. It is so much more than just a brief note to an administrative office enclosing your resume and stating your availability for the open position.

The following are key elements in a cover letter to accompany your resume (especially if you are applying for your first teaching job) :

You’re “Fit” for the Job

The most difficult hurdle that you may face in breaking into your first teaching job is demonstrating your experience and background that make you the right person for an elementary school teaching job. While your college degree and work history may be featured in your resume, you may have personal experiences that are just as important in giving you the ability to teach children in a classroom. How many years in total have you worked with children? What makes elementary school teaching so appealing to you? What one personal experience can you describe that demonstrates your capacity to relate well with children? Your cover letter needs to summarize the salient points on your resume, and show why you are capable of being a great teacher.

Your Skills and Hobbies that Translate to a Classroom

The ability to engage children in learning subject matter is dependent on engaging their attention, interest, and curiosity. Unlike high school teaching, mastery of the subject matter is not as crucial as your “soft” skills. Knowing how to play a musical instrument, art-making, and foreign travel can all aid your ability to teach in a classroom of elementary-age pupils. Your camp counseling or babysitting experience may have given you skills that translate well in a teaching environment. The ability to enforce rules of order may be one of them. Engaging children in playing creative games may be another.

In terms of hobbies and interests, you may play a sport, enjoy hiking, or have an interest in gardening. Perhaps you speak a foreign language, or studied overseas. While your resume highlighted the “hard” skills you acquired in school and in employment, your cover letter is the place to promote the unique capacities you bring to the role of elementary school teacher.

Your Desire to Be an Elementary School Teacher

Your career goal needs to be a match for the job. Otherwise, you may be dissatisfied and leave your position. This is recognized by human resources professionals, and is the reason your cover letter needs to demonstrate this match. Teaching at the college or high school level does not necessarily show capacity to work well with younger students. An effective elementary school teacher loves being around children—and needs to have a high level of patience for inattentiveness. Children have shorter attention spans, tire more easily, and often have difficulty sitting at desks for long periods. In other words, one of the personality traits most identified with good elementary school teachers is “patient”. In your cover letter, you need to convince the recipient that you have the character for the job.

Summarizing your Education, Credentials, and Employment

The more years that you can demonstrate related past employment, the better in terms of showing your maturity to handle elementary school teaching. While your resume probably lists your work experience, the cover letter is the place where you can specify the length of your employment history. The decision-maker who reviews your resume is less likely to figure out the total himself or herself (as the average length of time in resume review is approximately 30 seconds per resume). This is why it is important for your cover letter to summarize the most important aspects of your resume—including the number of years of related experience.

Your one-page cover letter is a written photograph of you!