Professor's 'Valued Voices' performed for read-in day
Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr's script about a struggling high school student exposes issues that impede classroom success for some teens.
By Natalie Allison '13
After speaking with education majors about the poor performance of black males in their third-grade student teaching classes, Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr discovered that many of the boys, and black male students in general, typically had one thing in common: they were not effectively engaged.
In response to her findings, Rohr wrote “Valued Voices,” a play that illustrates the complex issues that harm the educational prospects for black male students.
Members of the North Carolina Black Repertoire Company Teen Theater Ensemble performed a reading of the play on Feb. 10, 2012, in LaRose Digital Theater to cap African-American Read-In Day, a formal event organized as part of Black History Month at Elon University.
The majority of the members of the ensemble were high school students in Forsyth, Guilford and Catawba counties who auditioned for the ensemble. Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, an acclaimed actor and director, directed the reading.
The play centered on Jamal Harris, a 16-year-old, second-time freshman in high school who lives with his elderly grandmother. After starting a fight with a peer in his English class, Harris is sent to in-school suspension — a classroom he frequented.
It is there where his in-school suspension teacher discovers a modern-day translation Harris wrote of the Shakespearean sonnet his English class was studying.
The play illuminated the untapped talent of students such as Harris and their potential to contribute to classroom lessons and discussions.
“Let’s use what they have,” Rohr said. “Let’s think about what students bring, because all students bring something. The problem we often find id that certain things are not valued, so either dismiss it or pretend it doesn’t exist.”
Following the reading of the play, attended largely by education majors, faculty, staff and community members, Rohr initiated a discussion about black students in today’s education system and how they can be effectively reached and their perspectives valued by teachers.