Success, All Along the Way

by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller


Candy Conrad is a middle school language arts teacher in an inner-city school. She has students write in success journals daily. Why success journals? Why daily? Read the answers to those questions in her own words.

“I have used journals for years,” she recently told us. “One of my main jobs is to get kids to write. Journals are a pretty safe way to get them to do that. Journals are not graded and students don’t even have to share them with me if they choose not to. They simply fold the page back and that is the signal to me that their journal entry for that day is private. I respect that privacy. Over time they have come to trust me not to look.”

“I began using success journals when I realized that many of my students view themselves as unsuccessful,” she explained. “They do not often experience dramatic successes. I wanted to help them see themselves as successful students and successful human beings.”

We learned from Candy that her students saw success as something huge: owning a big car, wearing expensive clothes, a state championship, or winning the lottery. Not many of her students are going to experience those things and she wanted them to feel successful. So she used success journals every day as a routine to help them keep track of smaller successes. She believed that if her middle school students made those journal entries regularly, over time they would eventually come to see themselves as successful.

Candy told her students, “There are four minutes before the bell rings. Use this time to write in your success journals. Write at least one goal you accomplished, one task you completed, one encouragement or compliment you gave to a friend, or one other thing you did that was a success today.” Students did as instructed and as the days passed they began to see their journal entries increase in length and their success journals increase in thickness.

Candy believes that when success in everyday tasks is recognized and honored, that ritual has a cumulative effect. She says, “You can use the rest of your life chasing success and proving to yourself that you are successful when you get there, or you can notice it every day and feel successful all along the way.”

Thank you, Candy Conrad.

Do see the potential here for using this technique in your own life? How about creating a Teacher Talk Advantage success journal for yourself? Each day record a step you took toward speaking differently to your students, a new language piece you used, or a language technique you implemented. Record a positive reaction you received, a positive feeling you felt, or a reason to pat yourself on the back. Write about what worked well, a risk you took, or a helpful language idea you shared with a parent.

If you wait until you totally master all the skills in The Teacher Talk Advantage it might be a long time before you get to feel successful. Or, you could do like Candy Conrad’s students did:  feel successful all along the way.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching.They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: and


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