Shine, Shine, Shine at the Lit. Fest

Glory, our guest blogger--inspired by Lydia Netzer's presentation--
asks if we ever hide our true teacher selves.

I attended the ODU Literary Festival on Friday, October 13, at 1:00 PM, in the Chandler Recital Hall. Lydia Netzer, writer of the book, Shine, Shine, Shine, was the speaker.  Ms. Netzer lives locally in Hampton Roads, and much of her novel is set in Norfolk.  Also speaking during this time frame was another author, Kimberly Brock. However, I would like to focus on Lydia Netzer in this post.  In addition to being a writer, Ms. Netzer is a home-schooling mother of two young children and a member of a folk-punk band called The Virginia Janes.
Take a look at Robots, by The Virginia Janes,
based on the novel, Shine, Shine, Shine, by Lydia Netzer
In her talk, Ms. Netzer shared some things that she feels are important about writing. She said that she feels that for writing to be true, to be real, to be more than just pleasant to read, that it needs to be personal.  She spoke about how she was resistant to this in her own writing. She wanted to write a story where the elderly mother lived happily ever after and didn’t die from cancer after having to be removed from life-support by the daughter. This scenario happened in Ms. Netzer’s own life, and for five years, it was too painful for her to write it into her story. However, once she did it, the rest of the book flowed from there.

When asked about the message of her book, Ms. Netzer joked that it was motherhood equals death. This is certainly not an obvious theme in Shine, Shine, Shine. However, Sunny, the main character in this book does feel that she has to “put to death” her real self in order to be a good mother. She has to hide who she really is and fit in with normal people in order to be a parent. She is always frustrated that her husband cannot do the same thing.

While these themes do not have a direct relation to teaching, I could see some connection. As teachers, we will have to struggle against going with the status quo in our classrooms. We have SOLs, pacing guides, prescribed grade-level curriculum, and years of “this is how it has always been done” to contend with. I think in the face of these things that trusting ourselves as professionals will be a challenge.  The main character in Netzer’s book, Sunny, began to realize that what her children needed was her, the real her, and that she was what was best for them. Like Sunny, we need to be careful not to “put to death” our own creative instincts in the classroom in order to fit in with the current educational scene. We should be careful not forget our instincts, our creativity, what we’ve learned, that is, who we are as educators.

Lydia Netzer, and other local writers like her, could be a great resource for teachers.  At the Literary Festival, the way that Ms. Netzer spoke about writing was insightful and inspiring.  Local writers are a way to make literature and writing real to students.  Giving kids access to real writerswhether it be via a field trip to a poetry reading at a local coffee house, studying a work set in our local area, or having a practicing writer come to speak to our studentsshows them authenticity in the craft.

 What about you?
  • Have you had an experience in a school up until this point, where you felt like you had to hide your true self as an educator in order to fit in with the culture of the school? Do you know how you could have handled it differently?
  • Do you know of any local writers that you would like to introduce to your students?

  • What types of writers do you think that students would most likely identify with? Poets, bloggers, fiction writers?