by Cheryl Ristow (Aggie)
Around the Block with The Chatroom!
When I log onto the internet (at least a daily occurrence!) I have a set routine. First I check my email and read messages from friends and family. Then I read all my mailring messages - and, on the 4 Blocks mailring - that can be over 100 emails every day! Once that's done, I have to check out my favorite chatboards here at Teachers.Net - the main chatboard (http://teachers.net/chatboard/), the CA Teachers' Board, the Primary Teachers' Board and the Golden Apples. While I don't contribute many posts to any of these, I enjoy reading what's going on in other parts of the world and keeping up on the events in the lives of frequent posters. Finally though, it's time for what I've really come to Teachers.Net for- chatting!
The chatroom at Teachers.Net is sometimes misunderstood and sometimes even maligned. It's my hope, however, that all of you will visit the chatroom and see it for what it is-a global staff room. Like all staff rooms, there are good days and bad, frequent comings and goings, a variety of topics and interests to be discussed and a wide variety of people who visit. While you might not always like the people you meet, you know that eventually a friend will come in and say "hello" and will make your visit worthwhile.
Teachers.Net abounds with wonderful resources as we all well know. The chatboards, mailrings, Lesson Bank, and live chats with leading educational experts are nearly legendary! The chatroom is also a wonderful professional resource. Like most staff rooms you will find a certain amount of goofing-off. However, if you come in with an interesting topic or question, the whole room will stop and pay attention. We have had some wonderful discussions on how we manage our days - what saves us time, what makes our lives as teachers go a little more smoothly. We've discussed the pros and cons of reward systems for classroom management, phonics vs Whole Language and the benefits of teaching reading using the 4-Blocks Literacy Model. I've enjoyed hearing about textbook adoptions, modifying the school year calendar, brain based learning, and report cards. When teachers of a certain grade level or subject area get together there can be fabulous exchanges of lessons, songs, (yes! We sing in the chatroom!) themes and activities. Usually these discussions are upbeat and lively with a wide variety of opinions expressed. It's an interesting experience to find how varied teaching styles are.
Teachers from all over the world visit the chatroom daily. I have seen as many as six different countries represented at one time. While visitors from English speaking countries seem to be the most frequent, we've also had teachers from Japan, China, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Greece and France. It is fascinating to hear of their experiences doing what we all do - teach!
Teaching is sometimes a lonely, solitary profession. If you are lucky you will find one or two teachers at your school to form a bond with and discuss common issues. Having a strong support network of teachers, such as those found in the chatroom, is one of the most amazing benefits of chatting. I know that when I've had a good day or bad, I can tell my chatfriends all about it. They will offer sympathy or suggestions or words of cheer. When I am teaching, I can feel their presence with me. Although at times, I'm thankful no one from the room can see me - the times when things go "clunk in the classroom", at other times I can feel them say "well done!" I often ask myself "what would eimmik/Cher/REI/scout or any of the others do in this situation?" How would they deal with this demanding parent/administrator/guided reading lesson/behavior-disordered child? I know their ideas, support and camaraderie have made me a better teacher than I was before I started coming to Teachers.Net four years ago.
Of course, we don't always discuss educational issues or events in the chatroom! As in most schools' staff rooms the conversation runs the gamut from the most ordinary - "what are you fixing for dinner tonight?" to the silly - - "I'm getting some iced tea. Who else wants some?" This is perhaps the most misunderstood part of the Teachers.Net chatroom but it's also one of the nicest. It's a great way to relieve the stress and tension of a demanding profession. It's a great way to make some friends and to have a lot of fun. Our cyber trips to exotic locales are not to be missed (thanks to Anna, our resident tour guide!) and our parties are planned and talked about for days. We've celebrated a lot of good times - - weddings, a baby's birth, graduations and the completion of masters' degree programs. We've discussed real travel plans (as opposed to our cyber trips!) and heard about each others' vacations. We've also helped each other through the difficult times - serious illness, the loss of a spouse or other family member and even the death of a chatter (http://teachers.net/teacher-pics) close to us all. We still miss our beloved Marcy (dolfnlvr) who passed away last year. After her death, thanks to Bob and Kathleen, we were able to have what may have been the first ever chatroom memorial service. It was a well-done and touching experience that brought emotional closure to all of us who attended.
If you've never been to the chatroom before you will need to click on the "live chatrooms" link from the main page at Teachers.Net (or follow this link http://teachers.net/chatroom/ and then bookmark the site). You will also need to decide on a chat name to use. Several people use their real name, lots of people use a pet's name (as do I!) and still others use a nickname. Once you've logged on and have entered the room tell us hello! If you have any problems understanding what's going on, tell us! Someone will be glad to help.
One of my favorite chatters is a Kindergarten teacher in PA named Mare2. Last night she said something that sums up the whole Teachers.Net experience: "The neat thing about this chat room is that we don't know what color, shape or size anyone is unless we've met or seen pictures! Cool, huh, the way the personalities come first, not the visual thing??" If you are looking for a place where you can just hang out, have some laughs, be yourself and pick up some great teaching ideas, the chatroom is for you! Since this is Teacher Appreciation Week I want to thank all of the great people who visit and contribute to Teachers.Net. However, my (((((((hugs!)))))))) are for the greatest group of teachers I know - the chatroom crew!