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Bryan Appel

Abolitionist Kindergarten

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The carceral influences in our schools' policies, pedagogies, and curriculums condition our youngest students to believe that police and prison are the only way to deal with challenges within a community. Teachers who believe in prison and police abolition are challenged to create within their own classroom communities an abolitionist model that allows students to experience a countering of these ideas. Concrete practices for teachers who want to implement abolitionist ideas in early childhood classrooms are more difficult to come by than those designed for upper elementary, middle school, and high school. As systems and individuals are reluctant to embrace such ideas, it is vital for abolitionists to develop and share their own actionable resources that will support their ideologies in both pedagogies and curriculum. After gathering information about how and why power and control are consolidated in individuals and systems, always to the detriment of Black students’ agency and autonomy in public school, I interviewed kindergarten teachers from Baltimore City Public Schools to understand how district, school, and personal policy possibly impact the authority dynamic in their classrooms that, in turn, reinforce the carceral worldview. I then analyzed these dynamics through an abolitionist lens to learn how to make an abolitionist kindergarten a reality within the current framework. In my interviews, I found that teachers lean into heavy the heavy authoritarian model in Baltimore City because of how much content is pushed onto them by the district and state standards, that many have idea that very likely would align with abolition if given space and encouragement to develop, that the carceral mindset that operates in the classroom is felt in the relationships between the teachers and administration, and that the kindergarten teachers were unable to identify race as factor in the authority dynamics of their classroom community. Using these findings, I highlight several key components in establishing abolitionist space in a kindergarten classroom, including, recruiting like minded teachers who may not consider themselves abolitionists into employing practices that support abolition because of the relevancy the practices have for productive classroom communities, establishing working groups with other abolitionist kindergarten teachers to deeply examine practice and pedagogy within their work, ways in which abolition can be inserted into already existing kindergarten work, and the need for race to be front and center in the conversation for all teachers, but especially abolitionists.  

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