Surf’s Up

By Jeanne Ponessa — November 01, 1996 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Scott Mandel’s Internet guest book is filled with requests for help, words of thanks, and lavish praise. And then, of course, there are the exclamation points.

“WOW!” begins one California teacher. “I just found you, and I am overwhelmed. I am a first-year teacher, and I need some ideas for the first week of school. I am really nervous.”

“Great site!” writes another teacher, this one from New York. “I’ve saved the various lesson plans. Whatever I don’t use will be passed on to colleagues. I’ll send along some lessons, too.”

“Hallelujah!” rejoices a visitor to the site from South Carolina. “Wish I’d found this before. Please keep up the good work. You know how isolated/frustrated teachers can feel. You are a real encouragement.”

Mandel, contrary to what some entries might imply, is a middle school teacher--not a guru or inspirational healer. But he, or at least his site on the Internet’s World Wide Web, has attained almost cult status among web-surfing teachers looking for support and networking opportunities. And judging from the success of Teachers Helping Teachers, which has had more than 100,000 hits in the past year, he has tapped in to a largely unmet demand.

“Teaching is such a lonely profession,” Mandel says. “The only way we can improve it and prevent burnout of new teachers is for more experienced teachers to help those coming in.” Thoughtful exchanges on teaching techniques are not likely to happen during the jampacked schedule of the school day. That’s why Mandel thinks the Internet makes such an ideal venue for the exchange of ideas. “At home, you’re relaxed,” he says. “Then it’s a perfect time to do this networking.”

Mandel’s web site, and most of his knowledge of the Internet, dates to just over a year ago. An English, history, and musical-theater teacher at Pacoima Middle School in Los Angeles, he decided to spend time over the summer making himself Internet-literate. He wanted to create a forum that could help other teachers.

Teachers Helping Teachers was launched a year ago as a tips page, with Mandel supplying about 80 percent of the material and friends the rest. But when Yahoo, a searchable directory of Internet sites, began listing his site, the number of visitors jumped from about 75 a day to as many as 400, and the lesson ideas began pouring in. Now, about 85 percent of the ideas come from the outside.

Teachers who log in can select from a variety of subject areas ranging from classroom management to special education. A teacher clicking on “Social Studies,” for example, is greeted by an animated graphic featuring two spinning globes. Scrolling down the page, the reader finds a list of lesson suggestions such as “Political Movements in America: How Are Issues Promoted?” and “Multi-culturalism Today: Studying American Culture.”

The site also features education resources and stress-reduction tips. A newer feature lets teachers “chat” with colleagues in real-time. Readers submit between 20 and 40 questions and problems each day. Mandel turns some of those queries into a special topic of the week. But if the question is urgent in nature, Mandel will supply an answer within 48 hours.

The web site’s most revealing page is the guest book, which serves as a kind of bulletin board for teachers. Each listing includes a brief comment from the visitor, along with an e-mail address to which others can send responses. “I just found this section while browsing,” a Virginia teacher wrote last August. “Wow! I’m looking for ideas on teaching ancient Egypt to 2nd graders.”

A teacher from Wisconsin writes: “Help...9th grade U.S. history teacher looking for a Macintosh mentor to help me learn more about the Internet so I can use it more effectively in the classroom.”

Like the queries teachers send in, each guest-book entry gets a personal response from Mandel. The whole operation takes about eight to 12 hours of his time each week. He gets no money for running the service. “This is my pro bono work,” he says.

Mandel’s site, of course, is not the only web page by teachers for teachers. Kansas elementary school teacher Lajean Shiney and her graphic-designer husband, Lee, run a similar site called Teacher’s Edition Online. The Shineys’ site, like Mandel’s, has been up for only a little more than a year.

In its first incarnation (it started out as a personal home page), the site happened to mention that Shiney had a pond in her classroom. That tidbit sparked the interest of teachers who wanted to replicate the idea, and soon the Shineys found themselves exclusively in the lesson-idea business. Now, the site, which changes weekly, offers lessons, teaching tips, and real-world advice on such topics as “classroom public relations.”

Shiney, who teaches 4th and 5th graders at Lawrence Elementary School in Wichita, says the site has attracted a wide range of educators, from preschool teachers and university professors to home-schooling parents looking for ideas.

Teachers, Shiney says, “are doing more sharing this way than they’re doing in their own building or in their own district. People are more willing to share this way.”

Mandel agrees, describing the Internet as “the ultimate” teacher-resource. “I may be working on a lesson, and I need a piece of information,” he says. “I can get it on the Internet.”

A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 1996 edition of Teacher as Surf’s Up

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP