You heard that right – I actually ate a live earthworm at school. Here’s how it went down – no pun intended. This would have been in the early 2000s when I was teaching 5th grade math. At this time the required standardized test was the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, or TAAS for short. I always prided myself on teaching mathematics and not teaching the test, however – there is so much riding on the students’ performance that one must do what one must do in order to survive. You can take the high road as a teacher only so long because at the end of the day your performance will be determined by a group of 11-year-olds.
Every school year I made a friendly wager with the kids to encourage them to do their very best on the TAAS test. The terms were explained to each of my classes that if they as a group all passed the test, I would eat a worm. 100 percent passing – nothing else would do. They really liked this idea and were very excited to have a chance to see something as crazy as that happen right before their eyes in the classroom. It was a pretty safe bet, mind you because there was always one or two students who fell just a bit short after the tests were graded. I’m not a gambling man at heart, but I just “knew” that I would be receiving the better end of the deal with the kids’ motivation to succeed and the “fact” that it was all but certain that I would win the bet. That all changed one day.
Historically all of my classes were in the 90 to 95 percent passing rates on the TAAS test, but one year I had a class with 100 percent passing. They ALL passed? I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud of them and then I remembered the bet. Oh, how that took the wind out of my sails! I was still extraordinarily happy for their success, but at the same time I had to buckle up and satisfy my end of the bargain. I had to deal with the fact that I had to eat a live earthworm. A deal is a deal, and I am a man of my word, so I set about doing something that I would never ever do under normal circumstances. I had to face the music and take this challenge head on.
When I broke the news to the winning class it was like I had announced them as winners of the Super Bowl! They were cheering, clapping, shouting, and running around in pure mayhem! The feeling in the room was electric, but I knew in my heart that I had a cross to bear, and it was literally making me sick to my stomach already. That evening I dutifully purchased some earthworms and took them to school the next day for the big event and I waited until the last few minutes of class before revealing them. I probably should have inspected the creatures before that moment because those worms were huge! Each one could bait at least 3 fishhooks. Once again, the room was electric with excitement and some of the kids thought that I wouldn’t go through with it, but I did. First, I had to get the dirt off of my prey and then I dropped the slithering creature in my mouth and began to chew. Immediately everything that was once inside that worm was outside of it and in pieces in my mouth. It was the most disgusting taste I had ever experienced.
Every now and then I will cross paths with some of my students from that class and when we look back on that day it’s like it just happened a few weeks ago. Making memories – that’s one of the best benefits of teaching. But you don’t have to eat worms to get it.
The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Alan Shoalmire. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant Hotdogs and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.