2024 Antiracist Education Conference
Building Cultural Connections by Partnering with Families

Racial equity is a cornerstone of ROC the Future Alliance’s mission to ensure the academic and social-emotional success of every child in Rochester. It is one of our four Guiding Principles and for many of our Alliance members, it might be the most important one: 

Racial Equity
ROC the Future Alliance commits to dismantling racism and transforming systems that perpetuate inequity by changing policies, practices, and power structures to ensure that Black and brown children in Rochester have educational equity, health, and well-being.

Earlier this year, the Antiracist Curriculum Project invited two ROC the Future Alliance (RTFA) Parent/Family Partners (PFPs) to design and facilitate a one-hour breakout session at their annual conference. Kearstin Brown-Warren and Tina Carney led the session for K-12 teachers on “Building Cultural Connections by Partnering with Families.”

Nearly 800 educators, parents, and students attended the Sunday March 2nd conference. It was an incredible day of learning, with three keynote speakers that addressed the full conference and twenty-one breakout sessions for smaller, more intimate group discussions.

The breakout session led by Kearstin and Tina focused on a number of important topics for educators to understand including:

  • Exploring how partnering with parents, families and youth can break down barriers to learning that are deeply rooted in institutionalized racism. 
  • Using components of the World Cafe and empathy interview models to share impactful family-school connection approaches that are culturally responsive and antiracist. 
  • Centering the lived experiences of parents, families and youth.

Participants were asked to share a time when: 

  • They felt most connected to a family as an educator or professionally. 
  • They were proud of how you connected with a family.
  • They thought a family felt a sense of belonging in their classroom or school setting.

The group also talked about how these connections made them feel and why. Participants said it was empowering to listen to other attendees’ experiences and make connections to their own. 

“I love that we’re not just there to lecture attendees,” said Tina Carney. “We always try to engage and harvest the wisdom from the room. There’s wisdom in every room.”

One of the great ideas harvested was for teachers to make “good news” calls to parents instead of only reaching out when there’s a problem. “It’s such a simple idea, yet so powerful for building connections,” explained Kearstin Brown-Warren. “I know one teacher who sends home a positive postcard to a few families each week. We talk a lot about building trust in the classroom to break down racial and socio-economic barriers. This is a great way to do it. Don’t just reach out if my kid is acting up or if he gets a bad grade. Call me when he has a good day.”

The case for teachers partnering with parents and caregivers is clear. Student attendance improves, grades go up, and they are more likely to graduate and go to college. In fact, when teachers partner with families, students are more excited about learning and they experience fewer discipline issues inside and outside of school. By all accounts, partnering with parents is critical to student achievement and teacher well-being.

“Getting in front of teachers is critical,” said Kearstin. “If we can pull them in and help educate them on antiracist principles, so much of the systems change work we are engaged in will happen. We have an eager audience. We look forward to connecting with them and inviting them into our work more often.”

“I love having conversations about racial equity, because it’s all of our responsibility,” Tina added. “It takes the whole community, not just the schools, not just the parents, it’s really all of us coming together. I’m very grateful for the invitation to partner with educators to make things better for our children.”

To learn more about ROC the Future Alliance’s work to promote racial equity, please visit https://rocthefuture.org/.