It’s that time of year again where academic honors and awards are handed out for hard work done well.  But sometimes our well-intended accolades come with unintended consequences.  Students who strive to be the best often become stressed, frustrated, and even burned out with school.  The question we should be asking: Is it really worth it?

Research tells us that valedictorians are hard workers.  The same research tells us they are not necessarily the most academically gifted though.  Moreover, a large study conducted on valedictorians tells us that valedictorians rarely go on to create change in society.  They do become quite successful, but only by following a prescribed set of rules and expectations.  A similar study tells us that most of our top leaders could have actually been considered underperformers in high school or college.

In today’s episode, I’m joined by current middle school principal Charley Cass to talk more on the awards season.  We take a look at this from the perspectives of educators, students, and parents.  Charley brings us stories from his experiences as a building leader at the middle school and high school levels.  

About Charley

Charley Cass is in his second year as Superintendent/Principal at Bethel Grade School District #82 in Mt. Vernon, IL.  This is his 21st year in education serving as a junior high and high school principal and high school teacher and coach.  He is the 2016 Illinois Principals Association Middle School Principal of the year and the 2019 Illinois PTA Administrator of the year.  His speaking topics include poverty and social emotional learning.

Resources from this episode:

  • In this episode, Charley recommended the book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough.  How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators, who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character.  Through their stories and the stories of the children they are trying to help, Tough reveals how this knowledge can transform young people’s lives.

  • Scott referenced a book he recently finished by Eric Barker called Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Suprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success is (Mostly) Wrong.  By looking at what separates the extremely successful form the rest of us, we learn what we can do to be more like them—and find out in some cases why it’s good that we aren’t.  Barking Up the Wrong Tree draws on startling statistics and surprising anecdotes to help you understand what works and what doesn’t so you can stop guessing at success and start living the life you want.