Desperately seeking a soulmate but are just too busy to get out? Look no further than the TES website, says Virginia Hunt
Looking for love? Searching for that special someone? Not so easy when you're drowning under a sea of books, too tired to go out "on the pull" and despondent about the talent on offer in your own staffroom.
These days singles are looking for friendship and love from the living rooms, using the internet to meet a soulmate. It's not only lesson plans that are exchanged in the TES Staffroom forums - many are swapping phone numbers, too.
Two years ago, music teacher Pete Davison, known as Angry Jedi to Staffroom regulars, posted a Valentine's Day thread. Among a host of interested females was language teacher Jane Middlebrook, username Janemk, who told Pete she "might be tempted to lunge". "We just clicked," says Pete, and an email romance blossomed.
Six weeks later, on Jane's return from teaching in Italy, Pete met her at the airport. She remembers: "I was exhausted and overwhelmed and wasn't sure how I felt at that first meeting. He wasn't my normal type but through our writing we'd built such a deep relationship it didn't matter. By our third date, I wanted to marry him."
He admits: "I was terrified at the airport. I'm far too shy usually to ask someone out. But I soon relaxed and realised we were so right for each other." He also points out how hard it can be for dedicated teachers to meet someone: "You're either making resources or attending after-school events. You can feel very isolated."
Users of the Staffroom (www.tes.co.ukstaffroom) who have kept track of the romance know the couple are now engaged, with plans to marry next year.
Posters Showgirl and Mikec15 are another TES success story. Now married and with a baby on the way, Showgirl says: "If it hadn't been for The TES we'd never be here."
She felt from the start that Mike was trustworthy, and the safety net of the forum helped establish that trust. "Neither of us needed to put on a front. We were brutally honest, which I don't think you can be when you meet someone in a more conventional way."
With the added responsibility of bringing up a child on her own, Showgirl could enjoy the online courtship without worrying about the impact of a new relationship on her son. "The people you meet in bars and clubs are not the sort you want to make a life with - even more so when you're a single parent." She was also aware that primary school teaching was unlikely to offer many opportunities on the romantic front. She and Mike, who was also about to start a PGCE, shared common interests and could support each other.
Online chats progressed to texts, then phone calls, and in less than a year they'd moved in together. Two years later they enjoyed a romantic wedding in Venice, and with the new baby on the way, Showgirl says: "I now have a complete and loving family."
It's not just distance in miles that can be overcome, when you find love through the internet. Shermane Okorodudu came from Jamaica to teach here and met her Nigerian husband, Orho, online. She admits that, if she'd met him face to face, her cultural reservations about meeting someone from a different background might have nipped the relationship in the bud. "I was determined that my lifetime partner would be Caribbean, so doubt I would've given the relationship a chance normally. Online, I got to know the real Orho, free from preconceptions."
Her soft voice hints at her underlying shyness, and as a Christian, clubs and bars were a real turn-off. "I was in a tough job, a tough school in special measures, overwhelmed by the planning and paperwork." There was little space to seek out a suitable partner.
Once she'd "met" Orho, she couldn't wait to resume their online chats each night. "I was really falling for him but the anonymity of the internet allowed me to be myself. I held firm to my beliefs."
Her biggest surprise was finding out that Orho lived just down the road and was a member of her church.
Any first date fears she might have had were unfounded and marriage was soon on the cards, but they held off for a year, conscious of friends' and families' scepticism. Five years on, and with the delightful addition of baby Kete, they've proved the doubters wrong