Teachers.Net Gatherings Sprouting Up All Over!
by Kathleen Carpenter
Teachers.Net isn't just the most active
and popular Internet gathering place for educators, it also is a surprisingly effective community-building influence off the Internet as well. Since its creation in 1996, the site has spawned numerous real-life gatherings of educators eager to extend their virtual friendships to real-life encounters. Beginning in 1998, a crew of intrepid Teachers.Net teachers gathered in majestic Cherokee, North Carolina. Since that day, many enclaves of "T.Netters" have breached the cyberworld and enjoyed interpersonal contact, at restaurants and museums. There's even talk about a Teachers.Net wedding this spring down under in Australia!
"These are spontaneous activities, planned entirely by the Teachers.Net teachers," says Bob Reap, site administrator. "We haven't done much more than list the events as we get word from the planners, and provide a fixed link on our chatboard. The teachers take it from there, adding information about accomodations, attractions, airfares and other information, and updating the group itinerary on-line as it develops."
Director of Promotions Kathleen Carpenter agrees. "These people are so enthusiastic that they are practically doing my job for me by spreading the word from coast to coast that there is something truly unique about Teachers.Net. And it isn't just the dozens of terrific free resources we offer. The warmth and vigor of the tens of thousands who rely on the site for professional and social interaction set Teachers.Net apart from other Internet sites for educators. This is a real phenomenon!"
During this Spring, a proliferation of posts on the Teachers.Net "chatboards" rallied educators by region to "Join us!" as organizers in Florida, Missouri, Texas, California, Virginia posted information about meeting places, accommodations, and activities that made each gathering unique. Mostly social in nature, some itineraries have included organized "field trips" to take in local attractions. Colonial Williamsburg, Old Sacramento, Branson, Missouri were among the sites that saw groups of T.Netters and their families enjoying their various attractions.
The 1999 gatherings found inspiration
in accounts of the 1998 event in Cherokee, North Carolina which drew participants from that state as well as Michigan, California, Ohio, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Saudi Arabia and featured a full schedule of activities, including white water rafting. Cyber-friends who admitted to some anxiety before meeting in "the real world" discovered that all came together with a surprising sense of familiarity.
"It was as though we'd known one another for eons," marveled the organizer, known on the Teachers.Net site as Bill T/3/NC. "Any traces of doubt or anxiety I had were swept away and the following days were filled with fun, fellowship and, yes, real adventure, involving everything from riding the rapids in a raft to one of our group winning $800 at Harrah's Casino in Cherokee."
The only obstacle that created a temporary problem for the group in Cherokee was the confusion caused by aliases many of the teachers use when posting on Teachers.Net message boards or chatting in the chatrooms. As is customary on the Internet, many people are known by pseudonyms, or in the case of Teachers.Net, little more than first name with grade level and state abbreviation attached.
"I received a telephone call at home in Connecticut from Cherokee, N.C. during the first morning of their gathering," laughs Kathleen Carpenter. "It was 'Jude,' frantic that car trouble prevented her from arriving on time for the group's initial orientation meeting. There she was in a hotel lobby, surrounded by people, any of whom could have been the T.Netters she went to meet. But Jude didn't know what any of the other people in her group looked like, nor did she know any of her cyber-friends' real names! 'I can't very well ask to have the desk page Goose, YENDOR and Dr. Doolittle!'"
Stay tuned to Teachers.Net throughout the Summer to keep up to date on gathering related events and other breaking news.