Pretty Dope Right?

Read my blog.Drink water.Mind your business

This is not the end.

My intention was to create a lasting impact in your lives that was unforgettable. I hope that I have accomplished that.

You already know that I’m a writer. I am aware that many of you hate reading. I’ll keep it short I swear. Thank you for compromising as I exit stage left. Fall 2019 in my classes has been BIG LIT. ON GOD. NO CAP. I have thoroughly enjoyed our lessons and teachable moments. It has been rather difficult trying to stay on topic in class with everything going on in the world. Thank you for bringing your questions, comments and concerns into the classroom. I am honored you have trusted me to allow those conversations to be had.

Thank you to the folks that respected my 9-minute hall pass limit. And for those that didn’t, thank you for leaving the hall pass on the piano bench or under the door before you decided to skip respectfully. Thank you for those that skipped everyone else’s class except mine. I actually brag on that a lot.

Thanks for never disrespecting me (especially when I’ve seen and heard interactions with your other teachers). I’m flattered.

I hope that you never forget my words to you about power. In case you have already, here’s a reminder.

When people lack power in their personal lives, they seek it in other environments.

The classroom is no exception. Don’t let others control your power. You are NOT a puppet. Remember that adults are really just bigger and older kids.

You’ve got 4 years here (well most of you). Make them count. They’ll go by quicker than you think. The stage is inevitable if you’re doing everything within your power to get across it. The choice is yours.

Don’t allow everything that I’ve taught you fall by the wayside. I can’t wait to see you all excel in life.

You all have given me the greatest opportunity to give back and help save the world.

P.S. When I become famous I promise to remember y’all and vice versa.

 

-Your favorite teacher at RJR

One year ago I entered the doors of education as a bright teacher with high hopes of being able to reach and teach every student that entered my classroom. Some days I’m still that educator. Other days I question whether or not I’m actually making a difference. On those days I go home, crack open of Aldi’s wine and read reflection assignments that I had my kids write about my class. I binge watch 13 Reasons Why. Lean on Me. Dangerous Minds. There are also times that I vent to my non-teacher friends and reserve the hard hitter items for my notebooks. For the first time in my life, I feel that I’m working in my purpose. I have the job that creates all the other jobs. Nurturing the future. Planting seeds of wisdom. All the cliche catch phrases associated with being a teacher. But regardless of how critical my role is, how much I pour into my kids, the moral of the story is that the education system itself is failing our kids. 

 

But you already knew that. 

 

So I’m not sure if I told you. I currently teach Principles of Business and Finance and Entrepreneurship I at the high school level. Last year I taught Essentials of College Math, Math 2 and Advanced Functions and Modeling. Do I have a degree in math? Nope. Am I good at it? Yep. They needed a teacher. I needed a job. 

 

My first semester was spent learning the ropes. High school has changed so much since 2004 when I was a freshman. It didn’t take me long to learn about the various bell schedules, faculty meetings and fire and tornado drill protocols. What I wasn’t prepared for were weekly professional learning team meetings, twenty five minute lunches (or skipped lunches) and not actually having planning periods some days. There was and still is so much more to learn and I’m finding out new information everyday.

 

Teaching math was difficult. Not because the concepts were difficult (as they are the same as when I was in high school). It wasn’t because I didn’t have the resources or support to teach it. It was because many of my kids didn’t understand basic math. It didn’t take me long to realize this and the moment that I did, I decided to have an open conversation with them. I learned that many of my kids sat in classrooms with long term subs instead of teachers during their freshman and sophomore years. My school has an extremely high turnover rate in the math department. EXTREMELY HIGH. Blame has shifted equally between student behavior, ridiculous testing expectations and poor leadership in administration. Teachers enter the classroom prepared but aren’t always supported. Students enter the classroom unfocused and undisciplined. Administration sweeps it all under the rug in desperate attempts to keep an ideal image. It’s a clusterfuck. Nevertheless, those of us that desire to still make a difference, stay. And we teach. And we cry on planning periods. And we request Total Wine gift cards for Christmas.

 

Many of my students have told me that my class has been the ONLY math class that has had a teacher for the entire semester and the only one that they have learned anything in. This was the first time that a teacher didn’t make them feel bad for not knowing certain concepts. The first math teacher that treated them like they were capable of learning. The first math teacher that cared. The first math teacher that pushed them. 

 

My methods of teaching allowed students to not only learn but allowed them to fill i the gaps. If they needed help with addition (when I asked them to attempt to not use calculators), I helped them. To my knowledge, no one felt embarrassed. They all understood that somewhere along the way, education had failed them. 

 

Many of my students also admitted that they experienced severe testing anxiety. I mean, they only have finals for almost every class. On top of the PreACT. On top of the ACT. On top of the PSAT. On top of the SAT. On top of the ASVAB. In addition to the curriculum, I found myself researching and suggesting strategies for testing anxiety. There’s so much pressure to perform high without suggesting strategies outside of “get a full night’s rest and eat a good breakfast” before these standardized tests. 

 

Speaking of standardized testing, I failed the high school math Praxis. Gladly. In all of my years, I’ve never solved math without a formula sheet. Whether it was one developed myself, or one provided by a teacher. Guess who was expected to already know/remember EVERY formula for every level of math at the high school level? I knew as soon as I hit the submit button that I had failed. I wasn’t able to recognize anything I had studied until question 26. There was nothing more that I could have done to prepare me for it. NOT A DAMN THING. And that is how I ended up teaching business classes this year. 

 

Again I’ll remind you that I don’t have a background in education. My bachelors degree is in psychology. My masters is in business administration with a concentration in project management. NOT education. 

 

The problem that I began recognizing is that many of my colleagues received degrees in education. They received the foundational blocks. The classroom strategies. The degree assured them that they would make quality teacher. The students prove them otherwise. All of that shit went out the window the first time a student challenged a strategy that they were taught. 

 

In my .5 seconds of being an educator, I can tell you that there are plenty of people leading schools (administration) and classrooms (teachers) that have NO BUSINESS BEING IN ANYBODY’S CLASSROOM. They are full of biases. Stereotypes. Racism. It’s real in the field. 

 

I have and will continue to teach my kids that when people (more specifically their seemingly adult teachers) don’t have power in their personal lives, they’ll seek to gain it outside of their home (the classroom). They take my wisdom at face value. They observe. Then we talk about it. These are such healthy and teachable moments. 

 

But.

These aren’t the conversations that fall in line with the state provided curriculum. They aren’t listed in my lesson plans (when I remember to do them). These moments are organic. Oftentimes we go from discussing technological factors that affect a business to an ethics cases in which an employee is discriminated against for wearing their natural hair. I’ve got stories for days. Everytime I share a story about my “corporate days”, they often comment “ain’t no fuckin way.” And they’re right. Those were my exact thoughts while I was in the moment. Why didn’t I speak up? My kids teach me so much about freedom and freely expressing myself everyday. I have a few students that are interested in working in corporate America. And they don’t plan on taking any bullshit from anyone. Their motivation is the dream of the six figure salary. I never tell them that it isn’t possible because it is I do ask them to consider work/life balance and their physical and mental health needs. For those interested in pursuing entrepreneurship, I kindly remind them that it’s NOT about bragging rights and just making money. It requires a ton of sacrifice.

 

Ms. Royster’s classes are lit. On god. No cap. Per my students. 

 

What they don’t see. 

 

Teaching has spiraled my anxiety and depression in and out of control. It’s forced me to confront past trauma not only for myself but to help me better assist my students. I often tell me students to take note of the advice that I give them. That way, they won’t have as much to unpack in their late twenties. 

 

The stories that my students have shared have been incredible. They have been inspirational. They’ve been terrifying. They’ve been depressing.

 

The skin I’ve had to develop is thicker than leather. It’s a necessary evil to be a teacher. 

 

I’m always encouraged NOT to take work home. But I do. I worry about my kids the moment that I see their bookbags leave my classroom door. I worry about their interactions with other teachers. With their parents and especially the police. I find myself sharing many of the funny stories about my kids. Confusing folks when I say “my kids” instead of “my students.” And always receiving “thank you for what you do, I couldn’t do it” praises from strangers. 

 

I do it because I want to. The money damn sure isn’t there. And honestly I’d take the joy of my job over the 65k I was making in corporate anyday. The joy. But the 65k would be nice as well. Teaching allows me to work in my purpose. All day. Everyday. I’ll be in education for a while. Advocating for your kids (my kids). Their kids. My future kids and their future kids. I look forward to encouraging them. Pushing them to continue to keep their heads and hearts high. Reminding them that their minds are not only a terrible thing to waste but a true ticket that can take them anywhere they want to go. 

 

But again, the education system as a whole is failing. Because kids aren’t allowed to fail. This is why they take it so personally when they fail at anything outside of the classroom. Everyone, even those undeserving receive participation points and trophies. The kids are beyond entitled. The expectations are lower than the sidewalk on the street so that everyone can reach them. It’s saddening. I can’t give a student less than a 50 in my class whether they deserve it or not. I can write a kid up and it’ll take a month before they receive consequences for their actions. 

 

Many teachers aren’t supported. Not only are we fighting and fighting for our kids, we are fighting and fighting for parents, we are also fighting our very own administrations. I think that Joe Clark set the bar too high. I thought I’d be able to vent my frustrations about things that bother me and how I’m eager to serve my students in a bigger capacity. This wasn’t the school for that. The sympathy is non-existent. The lack of support began reminding me of the shitty management that I had in corporate America. The classic passive aggressiveness. And so, as with all things in my life now, the universe decided that it was time to spread my wings elsewhere. I wasn’t looking for a new position. At the time, I was fighting for a reimbursement for a broken car window (which is another story for another day at the bar), I still went to work for my kids. An opportunity came my way and I gladly accepted. Per the journey of my life, the assignment at my current school has come to an end. My new position as a Business Information Technology teacher at the middle school level will begin after Thanksgiving break. 

 

I have mixed emotions. My experience has been bittersweet. I’ve had a mixed bunch. More good apples than bad. I had one fight in my classroom. One of the fighters cleaned up my room after the fight. Both boys apologized for disturbing the peace in my classroom! THE PEACE YALL!!! During the first semester and a half, I only wrote one kid up. He said that he walked out of the class just to see if I would because I was so nice. After I wrote him up once, I never had another issue out of him again. 

 

I’ve got more street cred than I’ve got street sense. 

 

This chapter of my life/career has been the most challenging yet rewarding but I wouldn’t change it for a thing I’m excited for what year 2 brings. Stay tuned. 

 

As many of you may know (or don’t know), I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression in November 2015. Since then it’s been a colorful rollercoaster to reduce the number of panic attacks, suicide attempts/thoughts and breakdowns. I’m grateful to everyone who’s tagged along, supported me or literally saved my life.

Moving forward Pretty Dope Right?®️ will be a blog dedicated to sharing my journey according to my anxiety and depression. How it’s defined me, allowed me to define myself and forced me to find a functioning medium.

Thank you for reading

-Racquell

Journal Entry: July 31, 2018

Today started out as a regular day. I dreaded hearing the alarm clock. I repeated my affirmations. Hit the bathroom and prepared to walk Milo. Our walk was like any other day with him ignoring the conversation I tried to have with him. I got dressed and went to work on what I would have thought to be a normal stressful day. My colleagues trickled in as usual and we all got settled into our routines.

 

And then it started again.

 

More emails. Back and forth. If I had to guesstimate, I probably said “what the fuck” at least three hundred times. I was still struggling to understand why I was this week’s target for the pettiness. What did I do to deserve such attention? Apparently I started to wear down on my boss to the point where she decided to just come to my desk and show me what she was trying to explain in 700,000 emails. Again I felt my pot starting to boil. Under normal conditions, I’m an advocate for eye contact. In this particular encounter I deliberately avoided it. I guess it had more to do with her standing over me while explaining herself. Nevertheless she finished and went back to the comforts of her office. All was quiet on the department front until I received an email with the work I had completed being sent up the ladder. Once again she singled out every mistake that I made.

 

That was the straw that broke the camels back!

I looked on Skype to see if my HR rep was online. She wasn’t. so I proceeded to go to my car and get the biggest TJ Maxx bag that I could find. I went upstairs and began packing my shit. My colleagues asked if I was leaving.

 

Yes.

 

Today?

 

Yes.

 

Right now?

 

Yup!

 

They understood. Supposedly this wasn’t my bosses first rodeo with OCD micromanagement but I had had enough. I’ve been doing a phenomenal job at keeping depression at bay. It was rearing it’s ugly head again. Three years with no panic attacks and I could feel them coming on again. Clearly it was this job and it had to go.

 

It took two trips to get everything into my car. Once I got done packing I walked to my team members and bid them farewell. I knew my energy would be missed. They asked if I had a plan and my response was simple. No but I trusted that if I fall the universe will catch me. I even told my boss bye. She said bye, wait, where are you going? I kept walking. The song that I sang to myself was Lil Duval’s Smile (Best Life). Not only did I find it humourous for the occasion but also perfectly fitting.

Want to read the rest of the story? Buy the book.

It is approaching the end of the summer. For those of you that don’t know, I am a high school teacher. I too, was under the false impression that summers were reserved for trips around the country, binging on Netflix series and waking up at 5pm from hangovers. This summer has been the furthest thing from that.

 

This week is the first week back for teachers. And although I’m excited, I’m also saddened. This summer whooped my ass!

 

Yes! Whooped my ass!

 

What had happened was…….

 

I started teaching later in the year. Most teachers begin the year at the end of August. I didn’t get offered a position until mid August. That being said, I didn’t start teaching early enough to disperse my payments throughout the twelve month pay schedule and had to settle for the ten month pay schedule. 

 

Now fast forward to the end of June. Thanks to a few scatterbrained folks who shall remain nameless (y’all know how I am), I was under the influence that I’d be paid my final check at the end of June.

 

So when June rolls around, I wake up with full intentions of paying all of the bills.

 

But when I looked at the bank account, my stomach dropped into my ass. A solid $200.

 

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I struggled holding conversations for the rest of the day. 

 

Avoided eye contact with everyone.

 

Had a panic attack followed by a full blown meltdown. 

 

All before I could pull my shit together enough to figure out why. 

 

Well turns out May was the final paycheck and there was some “miscommunication.”

 

My face: 

My mind: I’ll knock all this shit over

 

The rest of the summer went downhill from there. 

 

My car broke down.

 

Had some outrageous family issues.

 

Fell short on rent and car note (and had to fully rely on my support system).

 

I had a book launch coming up and hadn’t purchased a single book to sell.

 

The one relationship that seemed hopeful crashed and burned. 

 

My body started shutting down and I had a medical situation that required me to have a catheter in for a little over a month. 

 

The uncomfort of it prevented me from adequately training for my part time job. 

 

I quickly spiraled into a heavy depression all while walking out of the house with a smile on my face. Not because I wanted to, but because I HAD to.

 

I couldn’t let anyone see. Cause who wants to see sad people? So on my way home from driving Uber til 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning…..I would just cry. Not just any old cry. That “what is life” cry. That “I think this is the end” cry. No matter how many songs I added to my “You Got This” playlist, nothing seemed to help. The advice of friends was always supportive and positive but when you are in such a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness, even that encouragement goes in one ear and out the other. 

 

I tried to drink it away.

 

I tried to write it away.

 

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Instead of fighting the depression, I decided that this time I just needed to go ahead and allow myself to go under. I always come back up right? I had nothing else to lose or prove. It was probably one of the best decisions that I could make for myself at the time, especially with everything that I had going on. 

 

The day I went to have the catheter removed, the nurse asked me about any depression. And I lied. Like most people do. Like most women do. Like a majority of black women do. 

 

It reminded me of a time that another nurse said well it looks like you’re happy so I’m sure you’re not depressed. Telling people that they can’t be depressed because they look happy happy is such an ugly stigma. 

 

 

So when I say that this breakthrough is personal it is overcoming my obstacles is super selfish I take so much pride in knowing that I’m tougher than I think and way more temper then I gave myself credit for and now that I know I have all the tools and resources to be stronger I feel that I have a better grip on how I can control my depression. 

 

I have a much deeper understanding of who I am and how I got to this point there’s also a list of things and thoughts that I need to decondition myself from. 

 

I know who my friends are and who my friends aren’t. 

 

Always being the lender and never the borrower makes it hard as fuck to ask for help when needed. 

 

Your support system can legit make or break you. 

 

Hustling is mad uncomfortable. I legit didn’t think that my body could function on less than 6 hours of sleep. But here I am….functioning and shit. 

 

The feeling of powerlessness and helplessness is only in my mind. 

 

I needed to break down. I needed to fall apart. I needed to sit down. I needed to be lost. I needed to find myself again. 

 

So while I didn’t get the summer that I wanted, I got the summer that I needed.

 

A not so hot girl summer.

 

P.S. If you’re in this boat. Reach out. You’re not alone. I promise. People just aren’t transparent because it’s painful to admit. You’re loved. You’re valuable. And most importantly, You’re more powerful than you think!

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

 

1-800-273-TALK

1-800-273-8255

 

If you have been following me for a while, you’ll know that at one point, this page offered “creativity coaching” services. I know right. Another “coach.” Well I have since then (last year) tucked away the idea of being branded as a coach. However.

I had created all kinds of materials for a “F.O.C.U.S” course that I never launched on Teachable. The class was supposed to be offered completely online for about $10 per attendee. The course was designed to help people “focus” on their creativity. Now while I still may actually launch this sucker as an in person workshop, I figured that I’d give part of the course away as a freebie via this blog. Like it? Let me know? Love it and want to force me to actually teach the course? Let me know that too! Hated it? I wanna hear it! All feedback is welcome!

Click the link below to access the full PDF.

Where Does the Time Go?

 

The writer in me wouldn’t allow for me to end the school year without writing something to you all. So here it goes.

 

Students.

I have heard you.

I believe you and believed in you

I stand with you

I stand for you

 

You have inspired me to be a better person. A more responsible person. You have taught me how to keep an extreme poker face. You have taught me how to always speak up. You have reminded to stay young at heart. You have taught me the power of words. You have  made my heart even more fragile than it already was. You have also served as daily reminders that education is where I’m supposed to be and where I should have been all along.

 

As you continue on your journey, please remember and understand that while you may think that many of the things that you do and say, don’t matter, they do. To someone. Somewhere. Many of the things you post and share online may be cute and even funny, but be mindful that monsters are real and there are people that prey upon the young and the restless. Stay as alert and aware as possible. Be cautious of your surroundings. And don’t be so quick to deem a person your friend, homie, lover, sister or brother.

 

While Ms. Royster may always be peace, love and zen within the classroom, I do worry about y’all more than you’ll ever know. Many of you know that there are two things that Ms. Royster “don’t play about,” and that’s my money and my students. Anytime there is  news shared with me involving a young person under the age of 18, my heart stops. I say a quick prayer that it isn’t a student and more importantly, that it isn’t one of MY students. Fortunately, that has not been the case thus far. I do not take this for granted.

 

You all have graciously welcomed me into education. As I have stated at the beginning of each semester, it has been an honor to be your teacher. I have enjoyed seeing your growth, maturity, honesty and independence. Thank you for not giving me any “horror stories” to tell my friends about. I have been eager and happy to answer all of your questions about MY “real world” experiences (even the ones that didn’t make sense). Thanks for all of the music that you have put me on to. Thanks for all of the memes. Thank you for respecting me at all times. I’m one of the lucky ones.

 

Above all, thank you for constantly “gassing me up” on how amazing I am as a teacher and that there should be more educators like myself. I’ll surely miss you, especially my seniors. If any of you ever become famous, remember that Ms. Royster gets VIP treatment. And vice versa if I become famous first! I wish you all much continued success and prosperity in whatever passions you pursue, but always remember that your peace of mind is PRICELESS. Protect it AT ALL COSTS.

 

With sincerity, peace, love and light

-Ms. Royster