Tuesday, May 26, 2015


"You are soooo cursed!" I overheard one of my homeroom students mutter to another this morning.

"Hey, now!" I interjected, "Why would you say that?"

"It's a game," the first student explained, but there was definitely some sheepishness in her tone that hinted at more than a simple little amusement. Perhaps reading my facial expression, she quickly added, "Everyone is playing it!"

"Tell me about this game," I invited her, and she was only too happy to do so. In fact the whole class crowded around my desk while she demonstrated.

"It's called Charlie," she started. "You draw a cross on the paper, like this," she continued, dividing a sheet of loose-leaf into quadrants with a green marker. "Then you write YES NO NO YES in the boxes. Next you need two pencils-- wait! Do you have two pencils I can borrow?"

I sighed and produced them. "Why should today be any different? You guys never have pencils!" I chided as I handed them over.

"Then you balance them in the middle," she said and leaned over my desk, placing one pencil along the x-axis of her YES-NO chart, and attempting to balance the other one on top of it along the y-axis.

"When the end touches the paper like that it means that side is heavier," I told her as she struggled; it was a teachable moment. "Scootch it the other way." She did and soon the pencils formed a cross.

"Now you say, Charlie, Charlie are you here? But I'm not going to say it! The top pencil will spin to YES and you'll be cursed!"

I looked at the half-circle of kids surrounding my desk. They were definitely engaged. "Well, I'm going to say it," I said, and I did. The group pushed closer, 20 eyes fixed on a number 2 pencil. Nothing happened.

"Wait for it," someone whispered. I leaned my head on my hand, my elbow next to the sheet of paper and scanned their faces again. Their expressions ranged from scared to interested to amused. Without moving, I blew gently on the pencil, it spun slowly toward the YES.


They all jumped back. Several chairs clattered and fell in the students' haste to get away from Charlie. The group recovered quickly. "She blew on it!" one of them assured the others.

I laughed. "I'm sorry!" I said. "I couldn't resist. It's so silly! People are just telling you stories to scare you. I don't want you to be frightened!"

Some kids laughed, too, but others were uncertain. "You didn't say it right," the first girl told me.

"Well at least I'm not cursed then," I replied.

I had almost forgotten the whole thing when a little while later one of those kids approached me in English class. "Can I borrow a pencil?" he asked.

"There's a couple right there," I said, pointing to my desk. "You can have one of those."

He hesitated. "Um, can I borrow a different pencil?" He looked at me meaningfully. "Those are Charlie's."

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