We should wish for what kids want

Published May 2, 2007

Every time we talk about what's wrong with kids today, we search for answers in studies and statistics.

We look for solutions in professorial philosophies and high and mighty judgments that only an adult can dream up.

But do we ever look in the hearts of children?

Wendy Hedeen, a teacher at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg, did just that. In concluding a unit on the civil rights movement and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., she shared with her students a column I wrote in January about the societal values I would like to change.

In essence, I crafted a list of challenges for adults and kids. I wrote about babies not having babies, underwear being worn but not seen and families being more important than fame.

Hedeen, an eighth-grade reading teacher who has been at John Hopkins for 10 years, challenged her students to create their own wish lists of values they would change. I was honored she used my column, and humbled by what the kids wrote.

It proved insightful, moving, sad and telling.

"I was just blown away, " Hedeen said. "They really thought about what they were saying. It profoundly impacted me. This is where their hearts are."

Girls would refuse to give themselves up just because a boy has a shiny chain, a car and is a drug dealer.

- Jontrell Collins

Teachers would not be scared of the kids.

- Bioncha Smith

A mom would care and stop letting kids out at night.

- Teosha Cherry

Babies would know how to say their name before they say a curse word.

- Shayla Rivers

Of course, Hedeen shared only a sampling from her 130 students. Other students provided their unique takes on the lives they lead, and the lives they wish they could have. Some giggled and laughed through the exercise.

Others, however, took it quite seriously.

One student went a step further, insisting that Hedeen give him more time. He had a lot to say:

People would value life more than revenge.

Teenagers would care more about medicine that can help you than drugs that can destroy you.

Family would be first instead of phony friends.

Teachers would make more than baseball players.

Jails wouldn't be filled with black males.

People in the best neighborhoods would live in the worst neighborhoods for a week, just to see what it's like.

People in the worst neighborhoods wouldn't judge the people that live in the best neighborhoods.

Kids wouldn't be teased because they don't wear Jordans everyday.

Preachers would practice what they preach.

- Stanley Hobbs

I think Stanley is after my job. And I hope he gets it.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or 813 226-3406.