Tic Tac Toe
“Erin Teacher. Shim shim hae yo.”
“Me too,” I replied without looking up. Actually, bored didn’t begin to describe it. It was a hot, stagnant afternoon; a terrible time for lesson planning.
A face appeared around the side of my computer screen. Merlin had ears that could be used for windsurfing, but the smile between them was cute and slightly naughty. He was small for his age, and had constant sinus trouble. The poor kid breathed like a purring cat. We got along pretty well when he wasn’t standing on chairs.
“Where’s Sally?” I asked, looking around for his usual partner in crime. Sally and Merlin made up the entire 4th grade.
““Apayo.” Sick. He futzed through the papers on my desk, looking lonely.
“Want to play a game?”
“Do you know Tic Tac Toe?”
He shook his head. I drew a game board and explained that it was just like bingo.
“I’m X, and you’re O, ok? I gestured respectively, “X…O… Got it?”
We did the requisite rock, scissors, paper. I won and drew and X in the upper left square.
Merlin regarded to board, purring lightly. Then he went for the middle. Tongue poking out with concentration, he drew a painstaking number five.
He saw my confused expression. “Ok, Erin Teacher?”
I pointed at myself. “Erin Teacher is…?”
“Yes,” I said. “So you should use O, ok?”
He nodded and gave me a thumbs up. He had this.
I drew my next X. He put a five in the bottom right corner.
“No, Merlin. O”
“O,” he agreed.
I gave him a look. He smiled back. Well, at least he was playing the game. We could iron out the details at the end.
“Bingo winner!” Merlin drew a victory line through his fives. I interrupted his dance to take a stab at the teachable moment.
“What’s this?” I pointed to one of my squares.
“X,” he said with confidence.
“No, Merlin, that’s a five.”
“O! Erin Teacher, O!” He stuck a hand in my face and counted on his fingers. “Il, i, sam, sa, O!”
I blinked at his outstretched hand. Then it registered. “Oh! You mean ‘O’ like in Korean! O?” I held up five fingers for confirmation. He nodded.
What could I say? Students didn’t usually follow directions that well.
“Great job, Merlin!” We slapped high-five. “You’re the winner!”