Melinda Snodgrass is many things.
She’s a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife and a warrior who valiantly battles “The System” each and everyday as a teacher within the Houston Independent School District.
You see, HISD is large…very large and while it’s dealt with many issues (as most large metropolitan school district’s have in recent years) it still manages to educate it’s charges.
To some parents with children currently enrolled in HISD, that last sentence might be debatable.
Even so, Melinda is a very good teacher— the last of the truly concerned educators. She sees many things. She’s been educating the minds of second graders for the past 16 years and has learned to read all the signs. She knows which child comes from a stable home and which ones don’t. She can tell how involved parents are with their child from the behavior, grades and of course, the child’s appearance. Melinda told me once that she can practically tell what the child’s home is like without ever having to step foot in the structure.
Very often, she knows more about the child than the parents. She’s interceded before and was able to nip certain things in the bud; things that could’ve grown into much bigger problems. For her stance as the child’s first line of defense, HISD’s widely ethnically and culturally diverse parents should take their hats, John Deere gimme caps, kofis, sombreros, fezzes, turbans and doo rags off to her.
Recently, Melinda and I made plans to have drinks and dinner together. I met her after school in her classroom at Haile Selaisse Elementary School on Houston’s near east side.
She was finishing up a few things–grading a few papers or what have you, so I killed time by taking a look around the classroom. It’d been almost four decades since I’ve stepped into the world of second grade. Much has changed. There are computers in place now and the teaching techniques were nothing like they were in my day. I took one look at their homework on the chalk board. I fear these kids at this very moment, know more than I’ll ever know in my lifetime.
But I was pleased and in a sense relieved, that one subject hadn’t changed: arts and crafts.
Kids still draw the same way. Melinda stresses free associative expression through art and her students often take advantage of that. She encourages them to draw whenever they experience feelings, be those feelings good or bad.
She proudly displays their artwork around the classroom. Some drawings were extremely interesting and through the magic of advanced cell phone technology, I was able to photograph a few.
This is from Brittany P. who’ll be eight in a few weeks. Her drawing pays homage to her family. The women in her phyla obviously wear a lot of long dresses and based on the ruffles at the bottom of each, I’d suspect they’re all Bob Mackie originals.
Apparently the men in her family have a thing for gowns, too.
This is the handiwork of Tyler S. As you can see, the seven-year-old’s artistic abilites are more progressed and rather sophisticated.
His subjects are varied: space men, a flying saucer or a flying pierogi–not sure. there’s a vine swinging Tarzan or Spiderman manhandling a lion by it’s tail, hotel balconies, a golden pyramid and what looks like a tiger confronting a French gendarme with a whip in one hand and a gun in the other.
And all of this is unfolding as the clock in the tower strikes seventeen o’clock.
Madison H. is an seven year-old whose family, says Melinda has just endured a divorce. This is a drawing of Madison and her identical twin, Amber. They’re seen here in pink dresses and turquoise pants. One sister stands outside while the other remains inside their home……
…..or perhaps she’s actually standing under a gray chupah which her freakishly long arm is holding it up.
And finally, this drawing comes to us from Cynthia T. and it’s a tribute to her mother’s “occupation” in uh…well, let’s just call it “showbiz”.
Young Cynthia shares a desk with a little girl whose father is a Houston fireman. They’re the only two kids in the class with parents who work with poles on a nightly basis. This does not include the little boy who sits four desks over.
His father works as a janitor at the Polish consulate.