Last week my classroom teacher borrowed a bunch of Mo Willems books from the teacher down the hall. We stood/ sat at her desk and read them all silently until I came to That is Not a Good Idea. If you haven’t read this you should. It is absolutely one of my new favorites. If you haven’t read the book this is the spoiler alert! Stop reading this post now! Go watch a read aloud on youtube before you read this. It is not a good idea for you to continue.
If you have read this book, then you know about the surprise ending. When I read it to myself last week, I almost cried I was laughing so hard. So I read it to my students today. I read it with a lot of emotion (thanks to my days of high school theatre) and my students were really into it. They were leaning forward and taking deep breaths to try and stay calm while I read. The anxiety was clear on their faces. They were so worried about the silly character who they thought was doing things that were not a good idea. I had one girl and one boy I thought might faint they were breathing so hard!
When I got to the surprise ending, I didn’t show the students the picture. I asked them, based on the words, what they thought happened. Every single one was convinced that it ended one way. I then asked them if they wanted to see the picture. They were so excited they could hardly stand it. I made a few worried faces and glanced from the page to them and finally turned the book so they could see the picture.
There was a brief but noticeable silence. The students faces were all blank as they looked at the picture revealing the surprise ending. I honestly thought they would try to argue with me that the story could not have ended that way. I had to explain to them what happened because so many sat in disbelief.
I have always wanted to be a teacher because of moments like that one. I especially want to teach younger students because disequilibrium is so easy to see on their faces. I can teach spelling and addition all day but things that change the way students look at something are what really matter. From the impressively profound, like when students realize they can make a difference in the world, to the slightly less life-altering, like processing a surprise ending in a story; that is one of the reasons I love teaching. I love seeing that moment when new information or experiences clash with old expectations and students have to make a decision on whether or not they will believe what they just heard or experienced. If you have never seen this process cross a young person’s face, imagine a child sitting sideways on a chair and leaning back only to find that the back rest is on their side and in a split second realize they are going to fall. That is the face I saw today when I revealed the surprise ending to the students.
The read aloud ended with me explaining that the chicks were eating the fox in their soup. From the back of the rug, as I said this, one student simply says, “Eww…” After the surprise ending all this student could manage to assimilate or accommodate was that the duck was eating fox soup… I really love an author with a slightly twisted sense of humor!