An Indiana University professor recently stepped away from his normal routine at the Bloomington campus and worked with a couple of Seymour High School classes.
Nicholas Williams, an associate professor in the English department, led students in Tim Perry’s Advanced Placement literature and composition classes in discussions of a chapter of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
Williams’ challenge for the students was watching scenes from three film adaptations of the book and pointing out differences in the film versions and the book.
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Film adaptations try to tell the story but often change it, Williams said.
Perry first met Williams when he signed up for a studies in literature language education curriculum class in the summer of 2001 as part of his graduate studies.
Perry, who was teaching at Brownstown Central High School at the time, wound up being Williams’ only student in the class, so it became an independent study.
“I was teaching British literature at the time, and he just kind of wanted to know what was in my syllabus, and from your syllabus, here are my areas of expertise, so we’ll talk about those,” Perry said. “He would give me readings, and then I would do class plans. They were basically lesson plans, and that’s what I kept in that binder, and he would look over them.”
Perry said he still refers to that binder today.
After that summer, Perry kept in touch with Williams and later took seniors from his British literature class to observe Williams’ college classes at Bloomington.
During those visits, Williams’ graduate-level students were analyzing film versions of books, and he had them work in groups with Perry’s students.
“It was good preparation for those students to work with younger students,” Williams said.
Williams also visited Brownstown a few times just to observe.
During Williams’ visit Nov. 24 at Seymour High School, Perry said he thought it would be good to have Williams lead discussions, so he emailed him a few weeks before to let him know what his classes were studying.
Perry said he liked watching Williams interact with his students.
“It was so awesome to know that the way he was questioning them is very similar to the way I question them when we have shared inquiry or if we’re just discussing whatever it is that we’ve read,” Perry said.
Williams said his first visit to Seymour High School went well.
“Since I deal with a kind of confined group of students, it’s good for me to meet different kinds of students and see what’s going on in the high school because certainly whatever is going on in the high school affects what I do very, very much,” Williams said.
“I hope that maybe it makes them a little bit less frightened of college, to see a college teacher as a good experience for them,” he said. “And as far as what I did with them, I just like to get them thinking about how to interpret a text, how to make sense of a text.”
Perry said it was a good opportunity for his students to interact with a college professor, especially discussing a difficult text like “Frankenstein.”
“I hope that they realize that maybe college is not that difficult and not that overbearing,” he said. “Just to realize that what we’re doing in this AP class is very similar to what you’ll be doing in college, and if you can do it for me, you can probably do it when you get out of Seymour High School. They will be prepared, so they won’t be so intimidated at the next level.”
Perry said next semester he hopes to be able to take a group of AP students on a field trip to observe Williams’ classes in Bloomington.
For information about Nicholas Williams, visit indiana.edu/~engweb/faculty/profile_nWilliams.shtml.