12/10/2013 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Writer’s Block? 5 Personal Statement Ideas

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Consolidating your whole philosophy of education—and leaving room to sprinkle in snippets of your personality—into one or two pages is a daunting task.  How do you convey the “why” questions that inform the “what” that you do in the classroom or the administrative office concisely and captivatingly?  How do you ensure that your personal statement is a valuable addition to your candidate file—not just a document that’s quickly skimmed and set aside by hiring contacts?

If you’re struggling with personal statement writer’s block, here are five ideas to jumpstart your creativity.

1. Tell a Story

People like stories.  Even the most regimented and mechanical resume-reader will pause with delight to absorb a story that is moving, personal, charismatic, and lingering.  For your personal statement, don’t try to sum up your lofty philosophy in a five paragraph essay—tell a story that alludes to it instead.  What happened in your life that made you want to be a teacher?  Is there an in-class story that perfectly summarizes your views on education?  Did you stumble upon something unexpected that completely changed you?  Write it down.  You’ll be able to discuss your ideas on education while demonstrating your personality, showing the reader what you value rather than telling them.

2.  Remember a Mentor

Every educator knows the power of a good mentor.  If yours was particularly influential, begin your personal statement by discussing his or her effect on you and your teaching.  Perhaps your mentor was a teacher you had, or a colleague at your first position, or a relative, or even a student.  Set the model—but make sure you don’t allocate more on-page real estate to lauding your mentor than describing your own views.

3.  Highlight a Student

The best way to evaluate a teacher?  Look to his students.  Spend some time discussing a student whose experience resonated with you in some way—perhaps s/he started the year on the wrong foot but eventually demonstrated an unexpected talent or became a friend.  Maybe the student taught something to you.  Choosing this avenue will allow you to show your passion for working with kids as well as open windows for readers into your teaching style and thought process.

4.  Be Trendy

Many independent schools are passionate about hiring forward-thinking teachers who have demonstrated experience with 21st century topics.  Show hiring contacts that you have what it takes to make a positive contribution to their community.  Highlight something you did—an example of project-based learning, or a blog that you started, or STEM projects you’ve initiated—as an example of a broader, 21st century-based philosophy of education.

5.  Shake it up

Who says you have to submit a traditional personal statement?  If you’re an artist, make your personal statement a working portfolio, and combine your thoughts and words with your art.  Try recording a statement on video and adding a link to your profile.  Write one of the ideas above, then add a link at the bottom to your personal blog, where you regularly exemplify the philosophy you’ve discussed.  Try something new—and always let your personality shine.

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