Sunday, 11 June 2017 14:17

Pre-Calc Predicament by Lisa Keifer

Pre-Cal Predicament by Lisa Keifer“What are binomial coefficients?” Mr. Soren does not pause for a reply. “The answer is the binomial theorem. It demonstrates how-”

Mr. Soren talks on, but my brain cannot process what he says. I stare at my open Pre-Calculus textbook, desperately trying to absorb all I can about this day’s lesson. He moves on to Pascal’s Triangle while I am still lost. I glance around. My classmates haven’t followed what he’s taught, either.

So goes every class. Mr. Soren stands at the blackboard, lectures for twenty minutes, then sits at his desk to read a newspaper, leaving us as confused by the end of class as we were in the beginning. We essentially learned to teach ourselves. Not an easy task with advanced math, especially when the teacher refuses to answer questions or guide his students in any way.

After Mr. Soren sets down his chalk, a classmate of mine timidly raises her hand. Annoyed, our instructor stops halfway to his chair. His eyes bore into hers. “What?”

She lowers her arm, clearly trembling. “I don’t get it.”


Mr. Soren’s tone is derisive. “I already explained it. Read the chapter again if you don’t understand.”


“It isn’t my job to coddle you. I won’t baby you or treat you like sweet little puppies. That’s what Mommy and Daddy are for.”

Ainsley starts to cry. I’m sure right now she is regretting raising her hand.

I, meanwhile, am in shock. I have just witnessed a high school educator berate a student simply asking for guidance. Though taught to respect my elders, I cannot help being disgusted.

“If you could just-” Ainsley tries again.

Mr. Soren huffs, his face and receding hairline growing beet red. “Figure it out or fail. If you think you’re smart enough to be in here, you should be smart enough to keep up with the lessons. It is your choice if you flunk. That’s not up to me.”

“Yes, it is,” I hear my voice. The entire class looks at me. I feel myself stand from my desk. My hands are shaking. I press them against my desktop to steady them. “It is up to you. You’re a teacher who doesn’t teach. If we fail, we are not entirely at fault.”

I hear some fellow students take in a breath.

“Does this seem like a good idea?” Mr. Soren asks me.

“It’s the best idea I’ve had since signing up for this class.” My instructor opens his mouth to speak, but I refuse to let him. I hurriedly continue. “You’re wrong if you think we are choosing to fail this course. Ainsley was asking for assistance. You need to apologize to her.”

I notice Ainsley watching me with crusty tears on her face and give her a slight smile. Then, I look back at our teacher.

Mr. Soren shakes his head in disbelief. “You’re a waste of potential. Forget about her. Do your homework.” He starts to walk away again.

“Do your job. If you can’t help us, what good are you as an educator?”

My entire class erupts in cheers. Mr. Soren, on the other hand, looks like his head might explode. “Principal’s office,” he shouts at me. “Now!”

I don’t argue. As I collect my books, I recognize this is the first time I have stood up to someone. I walk to the closed door and turn to take one last look at my classmates. They are all sending me expressions of gratefulness mixed with awe. I may never set foot in this room again, but it was worth it. We all came to a collective realization: we won’t let him break us. I head to the office to learn my fate, knowing I would do it again.

Additional Info

AUTHOR BIO: Lisa Keifer is a budding writer who enjoys life in Indiana with her husband and son. She has recently been published in Indiana Voice Journal's March 2017 Women's issue and TWJ Magazine's April 2017 issue. She can be found on Facebook at @lisakeiferwriter.