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Bill Hicks takes a weekly look at the hot topics in the TES chatrooms

Sometimes we play a game. It's called "Find the best metaphor for the TES Staffroom." As it's half-term, you can join in too.

So, what are these forums most like? A large comprehensive with its own debating chamber, extensive playgrounds, and serviceable set of bike sheds is a little too obvious; and which school of your acquaintance is quite so well provided with singles bars and night clubs?

My favourite is a big old country house garden, with a few well-tended flower beds; just like the new teachers' forum, with its resident moderator, regularly watering and encouraging the more fragile younger plants. There's a bed of neatly spaced tulips (the maths forum); and a large patch set aside for wild flowers, which grow particularly well in this soil (opinion).

There are several greenhouses to bring on the seedlings (student teachers, prospective student teachers, and a cloche for GTPers). The tool shed could be admin, andor design and technology. At the bottom of the garden there's an elaborate and dangerous rockery studded with rare, often prickly exotic flora (teaching overseas). And in a dark corner there's a steaming, weed-infested compost heap, which at certain times of day casts long shadows over large areas of the lawn. This is the personal forum.

How about the Staffroom as a virtual city? Not a big city. Maybe somewhere like Huddersfield, with a large student quarter, decent nightlife, a bit of culture and sport, but without serious commercial or government districts.

Which brings me to this week's thread. It's in the student teachers' forum, and it's called: Where are the Huddersfield crew? This belongs to a rich tradition of threads in which PGCE or similar students seek out like-minded souls in their new town or city of adoption in the early weeks of term.

I like to think of you sitting in your bedsits, after closing time, one-bar electric fire on, eating beans out of a tin, and making new friends online.

But that's just the unreformed Smiths fan in me.

It is at 11.15pm on a Sunday, early October, when john ov hyde asks, "Anybody from Huddersfield PGCE?"

Quick as a flash comes this from (hurray!) northernboy: "No mate, theres only me and you computer literate who go to hudds. Thats why there is such a big queue in lockside on wednesday afternoons..."

I've no idea what it means, but I like it. Maybe the forums are Huddersfield after all...

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website.

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