Young physics graduates – the importance of internships

Dominik Golinski is currently doing an internship at the IOP before starting his PGCE course in September. In his last blog post he  shared his experience of studying for a physics degree, this time he writes about his experience of doing various internships.

“As a recent graduate, I believe that internships are an invaluable experience that allows students to get an idea if they are choosing the right field to work in. Some believe that graduates are naïve to the ‘real world’. But by getting some industry experience, graduates can show that they have both academic knowledge as well as vocational experience.

I was lucky enough to get an internship last summer via the Ogden Trust, working in a secondary school for five weeks. The internship was at a large comprehensive school in Greater London where I worked in the science department – one with no physics specialists (not an uncommon situation in many science departments). I learnt the basics of teaching through observations and the invaluable advice and help from all the teachers who were happy to take time out of their busy schedules to enhance my experience. They taught me about how lessons were generally structured, how discipline was enforced, and how the pupils were kept engaged and enthused.

Having attended a grammar school which required gaining entry through the 11+ examinations, there were not many children with special educational needs in my school, and so I was not particularly aware of the work of the SEN (Special Educational Needs) department. Because of this, the head of science organised a couple of days where I could see how the SEN department plan and organise support for pupils both in and out of classrooms.

I shadowed a learning support assistant within a classroom to really understand the role they play with pupils who have special educational needs. It helped me understand the extent of help certain children need and receive and the style in which it is presented and adapted. I also spent time in the hearing impaired unit, where I joined in with a sign language lesson, shadowed a ‘teacher for the deaf’ in a lesson and also had a one-on-one tutorial for a pupil with hearing difficulties.

I gained a great many resources and ideas for future lessons and activities as well as a good understanding of how a lesson should be run. As a result of this experience, I felt that teaching was definitely the right career choice for me and the experience helped me with my PGCE (teacher training) applications.

There is some debate whether interns should be paid or not. My belief is that all internships should be paid – modestly, but enough for those with less money to be able to take part. Mine was paid, and for me it was necessary to be able to afford to take time out of my summer. After the internship, the rest of the summer was spent working as a labourer to get enough money to not have to work during my final year of my degree.

My current internship here at the IOP has so far been equally useful. It is teaching me a lot about the support networks and resources that are available to physics teachers as well as greatly improving my written communication. It’s this knowledge and the experience I will take away with me when going on to teaching.”

Any opinions expressed here are Dominik’s own and do not represent those of the IOP.