Inspire the next generation by showing career possibilities

Image: Shutterstock/Olivier Le Moal

As a teacher of 10 years, I’d like to think that there are lots of things that I do right – but there are lots of things that I am still striving to do better. I would like to include more careers information in my lessons, for example.

I’m envious of the teachers who have worked in industry before going into teaching. They have first-hand experience of the real world of work. I went straight into teaching, and so I suffer from the preconceptions and outdated information that was given to me second-hand.

From talking to fellow educators I’ve gathered some ideas and advice about injecting careers inspiration seamlessly.

  • Have a career learning objective alongside your other objectives eg identify the links between refraction and at least three diverse careers.
  • Have a poster on the wall that you can add to through the year. The visual prompt creeping into your view as you teach will be a helpful reminder. An example is a blank poster that you add to through the year as you cover different topics. You could group careers by the level of study they require in your subject or how closely related they are to different topics.
  • Spot the career activity. Project an image of a scene and ask the class to find links to your subject. There’s a useful example for physics on the Teaching of Science blog.
  • “Pepper your lessons with real-life people” was one tip given to me by a teacher who pointed out that there are lots of videos out there of real people talking about their careers choices. Youtube is a good place to start or if you are a physicist don’t forget that you can find useful job profiles of real people at physics.org/careers.
  • “Expose students to careers that are obtainable” were the wise words from one colleague. We may want to use those exceptional career examples that are aspirational but we need to remember that students will follow diverse paths. Not all students will go onto university so we should make sure that not all the careers we mention require a degree level qualification.
  • “Be savvy with homework.” You could set this as an extended piece of writing, eg imagining a day in the life of a person who works within a career relating to a topic, or it could be quick and easy, eg writing down 10 careers relating to a particular topic.
  • “Gather expertise from the room.” Ask the class to write about a family member, friend or someone they know who works in a career relating to your subject.

For me, as a physics teacher, it is important that students don’t think that studying physics only leads to a career as a physicist. I love my subject and the skills that it helps to develop in young people. I want my students to see physics as a springboard for a wide-ranging and fulfilling career path after the age of 16.

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Rebecca Peacock

Rebecca Peacock

Rebecca is a gender balance officer supporting the Whole School Equality Programme in schools across the country as part of the Stimulating Physics Network. She continues to teach physics alongside her role at the IOP.
Rebecca Peacock

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