Contributors to the TES staffroom forums are exchanging the virtual beers of Bauble's Bar for real pints in a Birmingham pub. Jenny Legg reports
A cyber family of teachers who share their inner-most thoughts on the internet on everything from whether they are too fat to teach to the age-old problem of vanishing pens will meet today for a party.
About 40 people are expected to meet at Birmingham New Street station before heading to the Malt House pub in Brindley Place.
It will be the largest "meet" of this cyber community who regularly contribute to the TES staffroom forums following other spontaneous get-togethers in London, Manchester and Brighton.
The TES forums, which have been running since 1999 and have more than 150,000 registered users, have spawned scores of friendships and romances.
Pete Davison, also known as Angry Jedi, and Jane Middlebrook, aka, Janemk, are even preparing to get married after meeting via the website.
Paul Lloyd, also known as Shifter, teaches key skills at Cannock Chase technical college. He began using the forums 10 years ago while looking for jobs and organised today's party.
He said: "The forums bring out a sense of mischief in me and I've met some damn nice people. They are places where people can let off steam, have a bit of a moan and a chat.
"Some people are a bit nervous about meeting for the first time but we are never short of conversation and it is always great fun."
Amy Jones, the assistant manager at the Malt House, said she was looking forward to another event after she worked during a previous meeting at the pub at Easter.
She said: "It was a fantastic day. They all got on so well and we had a really good laugh with them. There was one guy called Sugar so I kept feeding him demerara. They were good fun like that."
Bauble, another regular user, runs a quiz night every few months with more than 50 people taking part. Bauble's Bar is a cyber bar where people can "kick off their shoes, enjoy a cyber beer and introduce themselves without having to wade into the middle of an in-depth discussion".
The bar began about four years ago and is one of the most popular threads with more than 219,400 messages posted between August 1, 2005, and April 30, 2006.
The "pedant's thread" in the English forum is another long-running debate where teachers discuss spelling and grammar. It began at least four years ago and pre-dates Lynne Truss' bestseller Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
Every day users post between 5,000 and 8,000 messages in several separate forums including subject specific ones, those for trainee teachers or senior management.
However, the most interesting and curious debates take place in the "opinion" and "personal" forums.
Lilyofthefield, a secondary supply teacher in Leeds, said: "It's much easier to ask personal questions when you are not sat next to each other and people often seem to be testing the water to see if they are over-reacting.
"One woman wrote that she was bleeding after sex and didn't know what to do. I would never walk into a staffroom and say that, but when you are anonymous it is different."
Current threads include an invitation to look at someone's wedding photographs, someone questioning whether it is safe to eat food which is out of date by one day, and a hilarious conversation about misquoted song lyrics including one posting from FelixU who confessed they sang "shake it like a qualified teacher" instead of "shake it like a Polaroid picture" to Outkast's song "Hey Ya".
You can take part in the discussions of the TES online forums at: www.tes.co.ukstaffrooom
Posted by Magpye at 3.13pm on August 18, calling for ex-Goth teachers to unite.
"Tell us how do you secretly display your music taste and dark past in a classroom? I wear Nightmare Before Christmas pins and have a Jack Skeleton handbag. My excuse for which is as an art teacher of media and graphics I admire the direction and animation techniques."
Posted by Bauble at 3.56pm on August 14, in response to a woman's request for advice on whether to go back to Ireland to meet up with a man with whom she had a holiday romance.
"Without wishing to sound nasty, was his attraction to you directly proportional to alcohol drunk?"
Posted by NuffSaid on August 17, 5.04pm.
"I'm a Big Brother addict for the first time in my life, a respectable Grandma and I'm going on holiday on the Final Day!!!(sic) I've made my daughter promise to record EVERYTHING."