I spent the summer of 1987 doing what most 10 year olds did in the small town of Myrtle Creek, Oregon back in the 80's…I waded through lakes picking crawdads with my buddies, rode bicycles in groups, and wore my thumbs out playing my brand new Nintendo Entertainment System. 

As my friends and I fit as much fun as we could into what remained of the summer, I remember a friend and fellow student telling me “You do NOT want to be in Mrs. Woods’ class this year.  She’s mean.” As luck would have it, I had been assigned to the 5th grade class of none other than Mrs. Woods.

I knew about Mrs. Woods. She was kind of infamous at our school. There were stories of her reprimanding students, not taking any guff, raising her voice at times. I was nervous. I had loved my teachers up to that point and I was finally getting settled in after moving into town the year before. I was going to be stuck with Mrs. Woods all year and emotionally braced myself for it.

Here's what happened: Mrs. Woods became one of my favorite teachers. 

And also a friend of the family. She met my mom and my grandmother and introduced me to her son. I remember looking up, watching her and my grandmother laughing and chatting away one day after school. Once, she and her son came over to our house to visit. They were cool. Another time, on our way to Reno for vacation, we all stopped by her place to say hit and catch up.

I could have responded to my friend’s warning by picking on Mrs. Woods immediately, before she picked on me, making fun of her, worse yet, telling other students what I had heard and encouraging them to give her a hard time as well. 

By giving Mrs. Woods a chance, and giving myself a chance to relate to her, we built a friendship that I still remember and appreciate to this day.  

I learned a lot in the 5th grade, and one of the most valuable lessons I learned was from Mrs. Woods. Give people a chance, the benefits of doing so could be great.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever expected the worst from someone, based on what you heard through the grape vine, only to be surprised at how well you get along? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading! 

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