Bush tucker for teachers was charity flavoured

24th April 2009 at 01:00

"Go on, Miss - it's for charity!" They get you when your defences are weakened by workload, so resistance is futile. I believe I said I would "think about it". Next thing I knew, my name was emblazoned on posters all over the school which read: "Teachers in the Jungle! Come and see them humiliated."

Every year, we throw caution to the wind and spend a day raising money for charities local and international. Actually, caution isn't thrown anywhere - it's carefully orchestrated by Mr Thomas, our organisational legend. Lists are made, checked off and cross-checked. There was a slight moment of stress over the 15-page risk assessment form for the bouncy castle, but even that was overcome.

Originally, I was meant to take part in a teachers' version of Strictly Come Dancing, and actually relished the chance to wear one of those tulle puffs of a frock and cover myself in sequins. But lack of time to learn steps put a stop to the idea. That's when the pupils came up with I'm A Celebrity Teacher ... Get Me Out Of Here.

"Will you eat grubs, Miss?"

I decided that if I could eat seafood, tripe and pigs' trotters, what problem would a tiny dead insect be? They were on sale in Fortnum Mason, so they couldn't be that hideous. I drew the line at eyeballs and sexual parts in an attempt to maintain decency.

The bag of dead things arrived. Jerome opened it and retched. He crossed himself and gave me a pitying look. "You're gonna need all the help you can get, Miss" was all he would say before Miss ABW, event co-ordinator, whisked the bag out of sight and gave a weak smile. "They will all taste like chicken, don't worry," she said. But she's a geography teacher who really has been to the jungle and loved it.

Being told they were freeze-dried, vacuum-packed and foil-wrapped for freshness didn't help. Guneet kindly offered to bring in some of the dried crickets he feeds to his pet lizard. "He's really healthy, Miss," he added, "so they must be good for you."

We were not the only event. The day had been jammed with everything from the 7.30am treasure hunt to the 24-hour sponsored silence. But food played a key part, as the teacher versus pupil pie-eating competition testified.

Those of us in the "jungle" kept our stomachs empty in case the contents surfaced. Miss ABW played insect-chirping music and in came the bugs on silver platters. The audience was hushed. Would we? Wouldn't we? I had thought I could get away with something small, maybe a leg or wing, but those had been removed. Even freeze-dried and dead, a tarantula still looks like a tarantula, only flatter.

Mr B stepped up first, lifted a huge, red squishy-looking bug and ate the lot, achieving hero status in an instant.

Despite wearing my "Keep calm and don't panic" T-shirt, I began to do so, and could just bite a bit off a scorpion. It was crunchy and brittle. I gulped water and tried not to think about it.

The charity day raised a staggering Pounds 9,000, and the pupils were fantastic. It's sad that, while newspapers brand today's youth "toxic" and "hooded demons", you don't see headlines such as "Selfless acts of charity by today's teens". Behind the hoodies, you can find good humour and generosity.

Julie Greenhough, English teacher at an independent school in London.

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