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.  

Charley Cass

Charley Cass has been a southern Illinoisan his entire life.  After high school he attended SIU-Carbondale.  Since then he has completed multiple graduates degrees, all at SIU-C.  
​After college Charley has stayed around southern Illinois working at Mt Vernon Township High School in Mt. Vernon, IL, a high school principal at Elverado High School in Elkville, IL, and is now a middle school principal at Central Junior High in West Frankfort, IL.  Added altogether he has been Anchored in Education for 17 years.
Charley has stayed involved with the Illinois Principals’ Association.  He currently serves as the Region Director for the Egyptian Division.  He is a frequent organizer of EdCamps throughout the region to help provide meaningful professional development to educators at all levels.  He is a frequent presenter with topics covering the impact of poverty in schools, restorative practices, and social media branding.  One of his greatest accomplishments came from his hard work as middle school principal.  In 2016, Charley was named the Illinois Middle School Principal of they Year.
Charley lives in rural West Frankfort with his wife and two children.  His wife is also in the kid business as she is the co-owner of a childcare center with another in progress.  You can find Charley Cass on Twitter: @CharleyCass

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.