Your personal statement is the heart of your application for work as a newly qualified teacher and should be re-written for each role. This is your opportunity to provide evidence of how you match the needs of the specific teaching job you are applying for, and earn yourself an invitation to the next stage, which is likely to be a selection day held at the school.
Writing tips for personal statements
See our example personal statement for primary teaching and personal statement for secondary teaching for further guidance.
When completing a personal statement for a teaching job you should usually observe the following guidelines:
- Do not exceed two sides of A4, unless otherwise instructed.
- Tailor your statement for each new application according to the nature of the school or LA and the advertised role.
- Emphasise your individual strengths in relation to the role.
- Consider using the government's Teachers' Standards to structure your statement, or follow the structure of the person specification.
- For a pool application, make sure you give a good overview of your skills and experience.
- It is essential that you give specific examples of what you have done to back up your claims.
What you must cover in your personal statement
Why you are applying for the role:
- Refer to any knowledge you have of the LA or the school, including any visits to the school and what you learnt from them.
- Mention any special circumstances, for example, your religious faith, which you think are relevant.
Details about your course:
- Give an overview of your training course, including the age range and subjects covered, and any special features.
- If you are a PGCE student, mention your first degree, your dissertation (if appropriate), any classroom-based research projects and relevant modules studied. Also mention if you have studied any masters modules.
Your teaching experience:
- What year groups you have taught.
- What subjects you have covered.
- Any use of assessment strategies or special features of the practices, for example, open-plan, multi-ethnic, team teaching.
Your classroom management strategies:
- Give examples of how you planned and delivered lessons and monitored and evaluated learning outcomes, including differentiation.
- Explain how you have managed classrooms and behaviour.
- Detail your experience of working with assistants or parents in your class.
Your visions and beliefs about primary/secondary education:
- What are your beliefs about learning and your visions for the future? You could touch on areas such as learning and teaching styles and strategies.
- Reflect on key policies relevant to the age range you want to teach.
Other related experience:
- This can include information about any previous work experience.
- Include training activities you have carried out and ways in which your subject knowledge has been developed.
Other related skills and interests:
- Give details of any particular competencies, experiences or leisure interests, which will help the school to know more about you as a person.
- Any involvement in working with children (running clubs, youth work and summer camps) is particularly useful to note.
Aim to end on a positive note. A conclusion which displays your enthusiasm in relation to the specific application and teaching in general will enhance your application, but avoid general statements and clichés.
If you are applying to graduate school, then you’ll need to write a personal statement as part of the application. Personal statements can be tricky as you do not want to simply repeat what is stated elsewhere in your application, but you also don’t want to turn it into an autobiography. Things like your GPA, accomplishments, awards and a list of courses you have taken do not fit. Your personal statement should be, well, personal. Why do you want to become a teacher? Why do you want to earn your degree at this school?
Before you start outlining your statement, ask yourself a few questions to get an idea of what you’ll need to include. Jot down each of the following questions and leave some space to answer them.
- Who am I?
- Why do I want to be a teacher?
- How should I address my academic record?
- How can my experiences enhance my application?
- Who is my audience?
Now take a few minutes and come up with some answers to these questions. Don’t spend too much time on this step; just write down your general thoughts. Once you do that, you will be ready to dive in and start writing your personal statement.
Your introduction needs to grab the reader’s attention at once. Remember that they are most likely staring at a pile of applications, and yours will be one of many they’ll read in this sitting. You need to be memorable right from the start. Follow this general form for a solid intro.
- HOOK: Grab the admissions officer’s attention with a broad, but strong statement about the teaching profession.
- LINE: Write two to three sentences that develop that idea and narrow it down to focus on you.
- SINKER: Deliver your thesis. This is where you state specifically why you want to study education at their school.
Begin with a short summary of your educational background. Do not turn this into a resume; just briefly give an overview of your studies in both your major (English, math, etc.) and in your education concentration. If you have any inconsistencies in your academic record, this is where you should address them. Do not give excuses, but if there are reasons why you did poorly in an area, state them here.
The second body paragraph is where you get to tell your story. Why do you want to become a teacher? What inspires you about this profession? What type of teacher do you see yourself becoming? How did your student teaching experience inspire you to continue on this path? Anecdotes are best, but don’t get carried away. Keep it concise and to the point.
Once you have explained who you are and what your professional goals will be, the third body paragraph should explain why you think you are a good fit for that particular school. Hopefully you did some research before applying, and you have some concrete reasons for choosing this college. Tell them your reasons, but don’t go overboard with platitudes. They know what awards they have won and where they rank in the U.S. News college rankings. Be honest and explain what attracted you to their program of study and what you hope to get out of it.
In order to ensure the clarity of your work, each body paragraph should be formatted the same. This way the reader will be able to quickly read without losing track of the point. After the first body paragraph, begin each subsequent paragraph with a transition phrase or sentence, and then provide a clear topic sentence. Support that topic sentence with solid evidence. Finally, provide examples to back up that evidence.
Conclusions are hard, and they are hard for a reason. Ideally, you have made your case in the body of your personal statement, so you understandably ask yourself, “What else can I say?” Try one of these strategies:
- Widen the focus a bit and validate your thesis without being redundant.
- Project where you see yourself in 10 years after completing your degree and becoming a successful teacher.
- Reaffirm your passion for your subject area.
However you decide to close, do not fall back to your middle school days and simply restate your case in the conclusion. Take some time to craft a closing that will leave them with an overall positive impression.
The Nuts and Bolts of Academic Writing
It is certainly worth noting a few of the technical aspects of writing your personal statement. Many programs will have specific items they want you to cover in your statement. Be sure you have carefully read and then answered their questions. Use a basic font like Times New Roman or Calibri and either a 10- or 12-point font. Always use 1-inch margins and single space your document. The general suggested length is 500 to 1,000 words. Don’t feel like you have to hit the word limit, but don’t only get halfway there either.
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Steve P. Brady is a teacher and educational career consultant specializing in resumes for teachers.