What Happened Before? One Student's Story

By Angela Dell'Isola

The classroom is an ever-changing environment and many teachers will tell you that no two days are the same. And the main reason for that is: the students. No two are alike and so no two will learn in exactly the same way. This is what makes the educational field both challenging and exciting. Teaching requires constant adaptation and constant assessment. Are your students asking questions? Are they interacting with the material you’re presenting?

Overall, are they engaged? This, here, is the key. The most successful learning occurs when students are genuinely drawn to the lesson and content at hand. If they are challenging new information, seeking clarity, or asking for more, you know you’re on the right path. These moments are inarguably among the most memorable that any educator has.

Such was the case for Story Shares director Louise Baigelman when she worked with Lacey Ramsey’s middle school class at Eagle Hill School.

Eagle Hill is one of several schools that participated in an initial pilot study for the Story Shares platform. Lacey’s class read “Jacob and the Bee Man,” a Story Shares book by Kelly Winters. The story follows a young man named Jacob who commits a petty crime and is forced to work for the victim of his actions in order to atone for his poor decision. In the process he learns many valuable lessons, including how to see the world from another’s perspective, and that one small, seemingly insignificant act can have widespread repercussions.

It was clear right away that the class was immersed in Jacob’s tale. Louise was thrilled to see the level of engagement, but could never have guessed what would come next.

At the beginning of the story, Jacob tells you that he did something bad in the past. Throughout the whole book, he never reveals what it is. When Lacey’s students finished the story, they were still eager to uncover the mistake from Jacob’s past. But one student, Robbie, took it to a whole new level. Lacey told Louise that Robbie had returned to her class during recess because he couldn’t stop thinking about what Jacob might have done. He’d been so invested in the tale that he wanted more information on the main character’s life. He realized there was only one way to satisfy his curiosity: he would tell more of Jacob’s story himself.

In her email to Louise, Lacey wrote, “Robbie is almost done writing his prequel to Jacob and the Bee Man. It’s amazing how much he wrote, being that it takes him almost a whole class period to write two sentences of nonfiction. He did this all on his own accord – he came during his free time every day for a week, sat at my desk, and typed on my computer. I’m so proud of his work.”

Those of us at Story Shares are also tremendously proud of Robbie’s initiative. His story is as much a tale of personal success as it is a tribute to personalized learning. Our team members are ecstatic to see that the stories we’ve curated are effectively meeting their goal: to engage students in the pursuit of improved literacy. We want every student that visits our library to share in Robbie’s experience. Our aim is to have a book for every reader, something that resonates and compels them to turn the page. And through these books, we hope to also turn readers into writers, so that they can know the magic that comes from taking the reins and telling one’s own story.

Robbie’s work, “Jacob and the Bee Man: A Prequel” is now complete and has been featured not only in the Story Shares library, but in local news outlets as an inspiration to other young readers and writers. At 12 years old, he moved on from this first story to create characters entirely of his own, embarking on a second book, “The Monkey-Man Takes Over Colorado.” We look forward to reading more from this great, young author!

(Kelly also wrote a prequel to “Jacob and the Bee Man,” delving into the mistakes of Jacob’s past herself. Robbie was thrilled to see the similarities between his version and the author’s story. Kelly’s book, “Jacob’s Trouble," can be found in the Story Shares library as well.)