Luis Versalles

In order to support student success, building strong family and caregiver relationships is key. But how can educators ensure that their partnerships with families and caregivers are equitable, particularly for those from historically marginalized groups? In the fourth webinar of the Teach for Justice speaker series, Luis Versalles helps the TpT community address this critical question. 

Luis is a former educator and currently serves as the Director of PreK-12 District Partnerships at Courageous Conversation. In the webinar, he shares the Courageous Conversation protocol, a strategy teachers and schools can use to deepen conversations on the role race plays in parent and family relationships. Within the Courageous Conversation protocol are three strategies educators can use to support racially conscious and equitable family and community relationships: the Compass, the Four Agreements, and the Three Tiers of Engagement.

Keep reading to learn about these three strategies, and be sure to watch the full webinar to hear Luis explain them in-depth.

1. The Compass

It can be challenging to find consensus in discussions about race because, as Luis explains, “We have personal responses to race that feel very personal to us in the moment, but are actually absolutely connected to this deeper history of race and racism in our society.” So to help navigate these conversations with families and communities, Luis introduces the concept of the Compass. The Compass is divided into four quadrants — feeling, believing, thinking, and acting — and these are the four ways different people may reactively approach the topic of race.

To use the Compass, you first should identify what quadrant you fall into when discussing race. For example, Luis says, “Before I had the Compass, race in my life was feeling. Race in my life was this monster that I felt I didn’t have a lot of agency around.” Once you’ve identified your own quadrant, you can recenter yourself and turn your attention to how a family or community member is approaching the conversation. You can see what quadrant they fall into and meet them there to help them feel heard and better understand their perspective.

Learn more about how to use the Compass in the webinar beginning around the 15-minute mark.

2. The Four Agreements

It’s challenging to have productive conversations about race. As Luis notes, we’re often inclined to either remain silent on the topic of race or approach it as something to be debated. But he asks, “How do we create a different kind of space that creates a [. . .] dialogue of compassion and of healing and empowerment in a conversation about race?” To help educators achieve this type of dialogue with families and communities, Luis introduces the Four Agreements. 

  • Stay Engaged — by keeping your whole self engaged in this work, you’ll continue to identify how your personal experience with race is tied to a larger system.
  • Experience Discomfort — you have to allow yourself to feel uncomfortable to recognize and repair your blind spots.
  • Speak Your Truth — everyone’s personal experience with race is valid, and educators must show families that their truth matters.
  • Expect and Accept Non-Closure — these conversations will often lead to more questions than answers, so you must continue to hold them throughout your life.

Listen to Luis’ full explanation of the Four Agreements in the webinar beginning at around the 21-minute mark.

3. The Three Tiers of Engagement

During the webinar, Luis acknowledges how schools were not originally designed to serve students and families of color and how this leads to race-based disparities for students today. He offers student SAT scores as an example: “When you dig deeper into these data, you see that White children in relative poverty are better served in terms of access and opportunity and preparedness for the SAT than Black, Brown, and Indigenous students who are not in poverty.” To help educators combat these disparities through family and community relationships, Luis offers the following Three Tiers of Engagement as a guide.

  • Tier One: Engage — Tier One asks you to engage with your own experiences, beliefs, and perspectives on race, while seeking to understand the role of race in history and today. When working with families and communities, you must ask how race has impacted your own life, how it shapes the way you engage families and communities, and how it influences how they engage with schools.
  • Tier Two: Sustain — In Tier Two, educators should consistently work to center the voices and perspectives of historically marginalized communities so that those communities can contribute their expertise and share power at a leadership level.
  • Tier Three: Deepen — Tier Three asks educators to deepen their understanding of their relationship to whiteness, privilege, and power. For example, educators can ask how privilege has played a role in their life, and they can look for ways to decenter whiteness and embrace other cultures and their contributions.

Hear more about the Three Tiers of Engagement in the webinar beginning at around the 30-minute mark.

As educators seek to provide an equitable education to every student, bringing in their families and community in an authentic, racially conscious way is essential. As Luis explains, “When educators reveal that we are on our own journeys around racial equity, [that] we are taking a stand as a system around racial equity, our families are ready to speak their truth.” With the Courageous Conversation protocol, Luis equips teachers with an invaluable tool to seek out racial equity in those relationships in an ongoing way. Watch the full webinar to find out how you can bring the Courageous Conversation protocol to your practice.

Learn More from Luis and Courageous Conversation: