Tag Archives: teaching

#mybp2017: The Role of Audience In Project Based Learning


Thank you for coming to my session on the role of audience in project based learning at the Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Project Best Practices 2017 Conference!

In the essence of saving paper,  I am posting my presentation for you here.

Thanks for coming today! I look so forward to our conversation and connections.






Anthem: Float The River, Forget The Paddles


Welcome to my twice-monthly feature about anthems, the songs that inspire us.  You can listen to most of the songs on my Spotify playlist, Carry A Watermelon Anthems.  Today’s Anthem isn’t available on Spotify, so please enjoy it by clicking on the links below. New Anthems will be posted here the 1st and 15th of each month. 

Please welcome Kristin Weller to our playlist.  Kristin and I met over a decade ago through the Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Project. We wrote together in a writing group and the rest is friendship history.  Her writing is full of grace, rhythm, and beautiful details. Enjoy!


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Photo: Flickr Commons

As a writer and a teacher, I often find myself stuck upstream without a paddle. The washer leaks all over the place, the telemarketers just can’t get enough, one of the dogs pukes on the carpet – again, and my work-in-progress lays open like a wound ignored. My mind spins and leaks just like my wonky washer. It is times like these when I call upon music to set me back to rights.

I had my first Brother encounter as Musikfest more than a decade ago. That first time, I entered the crowd that was building like a heatwave beneath a white tent. During soundcheck, one of the kilt-clad brothers grabbed his bagpipes and twiddled a partial reel. A pack of red-headed girls let out a riff of shrieks and whoops, a mic squealed. And when the concert really started, we were awash in a wall of sound – beefy bass beating, a vibrating blast from a didg, a halo of harmonic voices unifying.Their sound and artistic energy made a complete circuit with us, their undulating fans.

A few years later, Brother released River. It personifies the struggle with resistance we all encounter at one time or another when we choose to jump into our  passions. Its chorus begins:

When I’ve been asleep so long…so long/I woke up cold…and I… I woke up.

To me it means that even when things go wrong, it only takes a small act, to wake up — to reignite passion and possibility. The chorus concludes with:

If we’re a river, let it flow… and don’t climb out the window, when I’m at your door

which is  a love-note to the self to be brave when opportunity knocks, to trust-fall with intent into passion’s currents.

The paddles are not required.

Just, float.

And, I do.

Special Note: Since Brother is a self-publishing indie band, River is only available through their artist’s website. You can sample River and purchase it here.

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Kristin Weller is a  writer, poet, essayist, and English teacher in the Lehigh Valley area. She facilitates Write Nights,  a community-based writing group for adults which meets every first and third Monday at the Nazareth Center for the Arts from 7-9 PM.


Don’t forget to follow Carry A Watermelon Anthems on Spotify for  a playlist of additional inspiring songs!

An Anthem For Teachers


 Welcome to my twice-monthly feature about anthems, the songs that inspire us.  You can listen to the songs on my Spotify playlist, Carry A Watermelon Anthems. New Anthems will be posted here the 1st and 15th of each month. 

Well, this month it’s the 18th because I’m a teacher and it’s mid-June and it was time to…

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Now that all of my scores are in and for the first day in since September, I don’t have a looming deadline (writing or teaching), I can reflect.  I’ve been in the biz for about 17 years and so each year brings different life lessons, different joys, different sorrows, different relationships, different discoveries.

Some years, we expect this:

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Steel Force, Dorney  Park, Allentown, PA. I got stuck on the first hill once for 20 minutes. It was kinda fun.  We got free soda coupons at the end 🙂


And often get this:

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Find the article about this sculpture here.

Don’t misunderstand me – I wouldn’t change my experience for anything.  I work at an innovative, amazing school with some of the best people around.  But it was also a very hard year personally, so changing jobs is stressful enough, but add the mix of deaths of three people I love very much and two people I love very much having near-death experiences, it’s been a ride.

Also, I am the teacher who gets hugs and letters and drawings that say, “Thank you so much for pushing me, Ms. Harlen.  You can be hard because you really care about us.”

I wish they’d figured that out a little earlier this year…but the good news is I’ll teach the same students next year.  We’ve all learned from each other; I’m a better teacher and person because of what I’ve learned from them and my colleagues.

So fellow teachers, when you are feeling beat down by  by all the things, stay true to yourself and who you are.

That’s how I got by this year.

I am a teacher with a huge, generous heart, with clear expectations and big dreams for my students.  My general rules:

Be safe, be respectful, and try.

But sometimes, this is a lot for teenagers, especially those working through trauma.  The push-back can be immense, but I know that who I am makes me a damn good teacher.  So the words of a wise 21st century philosopher, “Baby, you were born this way!”  helped me stay the course.


Don’t forget to follow Carry A Watermelon Anthems on Spotify to hear this Anthem and a playlist of additional inspiring songs from other posts.