Today is Walt Whitman’s birthday, so how appropriate that today was our “stalking day.” Each year, after exploring Whitman’s Song of Myself, I have my students go out into the school and the community, and play the flaneur, observing and articulating everything they can see. We walked to the Thai restaurant and at the appropriate cue the students all turned and stared in the windows and wrote down everything they saw. We went to the coffee shop and mingled amidst the patrons and wrote. At the “Hutch,” we sat in the food court and observed. This was the first year I let students use their cellphones as a way to record their observations. It is the perfect “stalking” tool.
The students will then craft their best five observations and I will intersperse them with Whitman’s words to create a Song of Ourselves.
The students this year have totally connected with Whitman. I will pass them in the hallways and they will shout, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. (I am large. I contain multitudes.)”
or “Undrape!” as they toss a shoe or jacket across the hall.
or their favorite, with arms uplifted and nose to the left or right, “The scent of these armpits aroma finer than prayer.”
They have found the title of his poem, Song of Myself, endlessly amusing.
I guess, I had never realized before how much Whitman is a middle schooler at heart.