I spent the summer of 1987 doing what most 10 year old kids did in the small town of Myrtle Creek, Oregon back in the ’80s…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.
My friends and I fit as much fun as we could into that summer. It was great.
Then one day, as the summer wound down, I remember a friend and fellow student telling me “You do NOT want to be in Mrs. Woods’ class this year. She’s mean.” Not long after that, school schedules were finally announced and I got to see who my 5th grade teacher would be. Guess who it was?
I knew about Mrs. Woods. She was kind of infamous at our school. There were stories of her reprimanding students, not taking any guff, and shouting at students. 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 as I walked into class that first day, I emotionally braced myself for the pain that lie ahead.
Then something completely unexpected happened: Mrs. Woods became one of my favorite teachers.
And also a friend of my family. She met my mom and my grandmother and introduced me to her son. I remember looking up one day after school, watching her and my grandmother laughing and chatting away. They were having a good time! My grandmother was laughing…with Mrs. Woods!
Once, she and her son came over to our house to visit. Another time, on our way to Reno for vacation, we all stopped by her place to say hi and catch up. I appreciated the bond that had formed between Mrs. Woods and my grandmother.
When I think back, I could have responded to my friend’s warning by picking on Mrs. Woods immediately, before she picked on me. I could have made fun of her or, worse yet, I could have told other students what I had heard and encouraged them to give her a hard time as well.
By focusing on what I could learn from Mrs. Woods, and judging her character for myself, we were able to build 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.
Have you ever expected the worst from someone, based on what you heard through the grapevine, only to be surprised at how well you get along? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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