80-Year-Old Teacher Doesn't Belong in Kindergarten Classroom

Lillie LeonWhen I first heard there was an 80-year-old woman still teaching kindergarten in the New York Public Schools, I was all set to pump my fist and throw out a "you go girl!" Then I heard Lillie Leon was fired. Because she couldn't handle taking 25 kindergartners to the bathroom down the hall from her classroom.

Now my fist is pumping for the New York City Public Schools administrators who canned her lazy behind. Leon thinks I should be feeling sorry for the little old lady who's dealing with age discrimination and telling news media she was "humiliated" by the Queens district where she's molded young minds since 1978. But I need a better reason than "she's old" to agree with her.


Sorry, I'm all too familiar with humiliation. It's called a little kid who couldn't make it to the bathroom in time, so she peed her pants in front of all of her buddies. As a mother who potty trained a child much more recently than the grandmother of four, I remember the look on a child's face all too well. So hearing the district allege that Leon simply stopped taking kids to the bathroom as she put up her fight to have them move her out of kindergarten and into a first grade classroom leaves me with an overwhelming lack of sympathy.

Apparently Leon has been pitching a hissy for awhile. She wanted out of her classroom because it required a long walk to the bathroom, but she refused an alternate assignment on the third floor because she didn't think she could walk out with her cane and her bad knees if there was a fire drill (the school does have an elevator for her use the rest of the time). A first floor classroom wouldn't do because she didn't like the air conditioning. Instead, she wanted out of kindergarten entirely and a placement in a first grade classroom where the kids can handle going pee on their own.

She already lost me by using the children as pawns in her game with the district. But her end goal still leaves me shaking my head. A woman with a cane and bad knees wants to teach first graders.

As the mother of a soon-to-be first grader, I can tell you that they're just a wee bit taller than they were in kindergarten. They still require low lying desks, and a teacher who can get down next to them to explain a problem, dole out hugs, and tie shoes. An elementary school teacher needs to be able to get down low and work with short people. Like it or not, it is a physically challenging job. And just as an 80-year-old with bad knees and a cane wouldn't take a job on a construction crew because she couldn't hack it, she shouldn't be in a classroom of little kids.

Being a teacher is more than knowing the curriculum or even how to impart it to your kids. It's meeting the kids' needs. All of them.

Would you want a woman in this condition teaching your kindergartner or first grader? Do you think just knowing her stuff is enough?


Image via YouTube

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