Page 76 - Volume 6 - Issue 1 - DBU Journal for K-12 Educational Leadership

74 classes.” Several other respondents thoughtfully discussed similar sentiments but were also conflicted, wishing more students got the opportunities they had received in ISM. They wondered aloud how to preserve the unique, special nature of this class that is created by the students’ passion while at the same time opening it up to more students who may not care as much about academics but who need to learn all the skills the ISM program provides. Who the ISM Teacher is Matters Every respondent mentioned their ISM teacher, often more than once, during the interview. These remarkable students talked again and again about what a difference their ISM teacher made in their lives. “He was the best teacher I’ve ever had. Hands down the best. He pushed me to be my best while at the same time showing me I could do it. He elevated my game.” Respondents talked about their teacher’s passion for students, about how the teacher purposely did not solve their problems for them, and about the high standards of excellence their ISM teacher had. The respondents talked about how these high standards were frustrating at the time, but they could look back and see the value of these high standards. Additional, Specific Mentorship Component One respondent stated that he believes ISM students should be required to mentor ninth graders during the spring semester of their senior year to add a servant leadership component to the program. JS suggested a student’s senior year is one of the most self-centered times in life up until that point. Everything is about you. You’re gonna have graduation parties. You know you’re getting into college and probably where you’re going by spring semester, so what are you really doing your senior year? I think the program could be improved if top students are encouraged to accomplish amazing things, like ISM students do, but the program also gets kids to think, ‘But what about my neighbor?’ What about other kids who are less fortunate than me?’ How can we leverage the ISM program to turn ISM students outward? I think each ISM student should mentor a ninth grader. Meet with that ninth grader every week at lunch or at least be obligated to put in community service hours into sitting with freshmen at your high school. Talk to them about their grades and stuff. Because, you know, seniors don’t usually hang out with freshmen. So many ISM students are rock stars. Let’s help build the next generation of leaders by teaching them to think outwardly. That’s life-changing stuff. Implications Scholarly literature about college readiness focuses on three areas: a) the academic content students need to be considered college-ready; b) the skills students need to be successful in college, such as note-taking, collaboration, and study skills; and c) the knowledge college-ready students need about the college application and financial aid process, which is commonly known as college knowledge (Conley, 2005a, 2005b, 2010, 2012, 2014). While the components of college readiness—researched and written about by college readiness expert Conley (2005a, 2005b, 2010, 2012, 2014)—are critical to a student’s overall college readiness, they do not complete the picture anymore. New components need to be added to the definition of college readiness that include helping students determine an educational path once they get to college. The current study’s participants mentioned this aspect of the ISM program repeatedly. College readiness courses and programs need to also include helping students build some of the professional soft skills that help students thrive academically and feel more confident. While these skills are consistently found on lists connected to 21st century learning, they are not included in traditional definitions of college readiness. Confidence—and the many, varied opportunities to build confidence in the ISM program—emerged as a predominant theme in this study, which parallels research findings related to current high school students. Generational expert Twenge (2014, 2017) reported findings that iGen students are maturing more slowly and engage in independent behaviors, such as getting a driver’s license and socializing without their parents, at an older age than previous generations. They also have increased levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. For high school courses to truly prepare students for college, they will need to include Julie Leslie, EdD