Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Non-Best-Self-Moments #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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Slice of Life: Non-Best-Self-Moments #SOL19 #TWTBlog

He ran up the street.  Kicking rocks and jumping over cracks in the sidewalk, completely immersed in some imaginary game being played out in his mind.

He looks up.  His eyes engage. He tilts his head to the side.

I see him.  I notice the contact.  I know what he is thinking before he knows what he is thinking.  I sprint down the street toward him.  My mind is racing, “She spent hours setting those up.” I know I have to get to him before he gets to them.

He picks up his pace.  He is now full speed ahead.  His arm stretches out.

“NOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo!” I scream, hoping to break his trajectory.

No such luck.  There is a force stronger than both of us that is pulling him towards them.  All I can do is stop and watch him enjoy this moment because I know the moments after will not be good.

A smile spreads across his face as his arm hits the first string and moves through them like a row of dominoes sending each carefully placed, color coordinated, balloon soaring into the air.  He watches in awe as each balloon ascends higher and higher until he hears his sister’s voice bellow his name.

I am back to running.  I intercept, grab his hand and drag him to my house.  I signal to her – give me a minute.

He immediately breaks down into tears and buries his head into his arms.

“I am an idiot.  Why did I do that?  She is so mad at me.  I am an idiot.”

I know he is not an idiot.  He is a typical seven-year-old who could not resist what he saw in front of him.  He is impulsive.  He is active.  He has a sense of adventure.  He is not an idiot.

“Look, I agree she is not going to be happy.  I agree it was not your best choice.  You are not an idiot.  You are not mean.  You did not intend to hurt her.  You had a not-best-self-moment.  We all have them.”

“You think?”

“I know.  All you can do is think about what you are going to do now.  You can’t take back your “not-best-self-moment,” but you can decide your next move.  That’s all you can do in life.  Take responsibility for what you do and what you will do next.”

He quickly comes up with some ideas and wants to go find her.  I commend his speed and explain that time is also on one’s side in these situations.  She may not be ready.

I think of this story when I overhear parents saying a child is mean or a bully.  I understand it is difficult when our own child gets hurt, emotionally or physically, but I worry these words, strong words, are being used too often and too casually with young kids.  We have to ask ourselves how these words are impacting these kids.  Can one outlive these words, or do they become a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Are we explaining the difference between intent and impact?  Are we explaining the difference between a bad choice and a bad person?  Do they understand you can have a “not-best-self-moment” and not have that moment be your trait?

These questions are heavy on my mind.  These young friends are impressionable and are looking to us to help them find or create their identity.  Our words matter.  Our words stick. Our words just might make a child believe an action or two represents their character. 

I believe we all have our “not-best-self-moments” and it is our job to make sure we share this with our kids and our students.  We are human.  We are flawed. We have the capacity to learn and grow. We have the power of choice.  It is most often not the misstep that matters most, it is the next step we make that truly counts. 


Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 11:17h, 08 March Reply

    We had a similar moment in school yesterday with a not-best-self act from on self-fulfilling identity child. It’s amazing how quickly they get to being an idiot in their own eyes and words. I always admire how you take a moment and weave it into a bigger message, Clare.

  • Avatar
    Kevin Hodgson
    Posted at 11:19h, 08 March Reply

    No one knows
    what goes through
    the mind in a time
    like that …

    we only see
    the contours
    of the moment,

    and then the

    – Kevin, poem inspired by your great post, full of insights and heart

  • Avatar
    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 12:29h, 08 March Reply

    I loved reading the description of what had happened – so vivid I can see it as it happens. Clare, you use dialogue so skillfully. It makes these moments so real. I just love the not-your-best-self moment and will remember to use it. This thinking is priceless for parents, grandparents, and educators from K-12 and beyond. It is also useful when we think about family members, friends, and colleagues. We all have these moments. no matter what age and stage we’re at. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Avatar
    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 12:39h, 08 March Reply

    Oh, friend…these are big thoughts you wrestle with and I love the phrase – You had a not-best-self-moment. We are too easily tossing around words to describe people, emotions, actions, and thinking without thinking about their impact and true meaning.

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 13:16h, 08 March Reply

    “Not your best self moment..” I love that phrase. We all have them and we all regret our actions sometimes. We need to remember that these moments do not define us, do not doom us to “bully” status. Thank you for another thoughtful post, Clare.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 20:46h, 08 March Reply

    I love the words you used to frame the mistake. Sometimes – no all the times – words matter. You gave us all a phrase we can hang on to in tricky suituationa such as you described. Thank you!.

  • Avatar
    Mrs. Tice
    Posted at 00:44h, 09 March Reply

    I agree wholeheartedly!

    I notice this with my own kids, as well as my students. In addition to the word choice that we use, I find that the way we say our words has an impact, too..

    There is nothing wrong with being mindful and intentional with our words. In a harsh society within a crumbling world, using kind words is the least we can do to make our world a better place! Teaching kids this must be a priority nowadays.

  • Avatar
    Fran Haley
    Posted at 01:47h, 09 March Reply

    Words matter. Your reflective line about a self-fulfilling prophecy is haunting to ponder. We have to strive for words from a place of grace within us, if we want others to extend grace to us in our not-best-self, all-too-human moments.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 13:22h, 09 March Reply

    Love both the not-best-self moment and the impact v. Intent. It is a important to take a breath. Give each child their needs and help all to learn the skill of moving on. We often say that the margin for error is tightening for kids and this is. It s good thing. Some mistakes we learn from.

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