• Published 24th May 2015
  • 2,518 Views, 150 Comments

Learning Curve - Jack of a Few Trades

Cheerilee's new teaching career tests her passion for education when she must teach a student who is unable to learn.

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Chapter Five: Eureka

The next day, class went by as per the usual. There was a bit of renewed trouble with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, but the offenses were minor and therefore so were the punishments. The day’s lessons went by without a hitch.

And Aura still didn’t pay attention.

Cheerilee had been quietly hoping that Pencil Pusher might have been able to motivate Aura to work harder at her schooling, but she hadn’t been betting on it too much. The little filly was still as glum and uninterested in class as ever. Come to think of it, she also looked to be in a more sour mood as well.

The bell rang, and the children took off for the day in their usual excited fashion. As they went, Cheerilee dug in her saddlebags to retrieve a mint. When she finally managed to find the candy, she popped it in her mouth and turned around in her chair.

Aura was standing next to the desk with an impatient frown.

“Oh! Hello, Aura. How can I help you?” Cheerilee asked.

“What did you do to my daddy?”

“What do you mean?” Cheerilee had a feeling that she knew where this was going, but she kept that to herself and decided to play innocent for the time being.

“He was all over me last night! He talked to me about all kinds of stuff and made me do homework with him!” Aura wasn't quite yelling, but the anger in her voice was clear. “He never does that stuff with me, and then he kept saying how I need to pay attention in class. Why did you make him do that?”

“Aura, don’t take that tone with me,” warned Cheerilee. “I stopped by The Ponyville Express yesterday to tell him what I wanted to say at the conference on Wednesday since you all didn’t show up. He told me that you didn’t give him the note I sent home with you.”

“I lost it,” Aura said, breaking eye contact for a second and kicking a hoof on the ground.

“Well, you should have gotten another the next day. I have plenty of extras.” Aura still didn’t make eye contact, which Cheerilee could easily tell was to try and conceal her lie.

“I didn’t know that,” Aura mumbled.

Cheerilee looked at the filly for a good long while, mulling over what she should do. She could give a stern lecture about it, hopefully causing some sort of change in her behavior. Then again, since she was trying to figure out more about Aura, being harsh was definitely not the way to get the filly to open up.

“Aura, can you look at me please?” She did as she was asked, revealing two pleading eyes that shimmered in the light with enough intensity to melt a heart in an instant. “Is there something else wrong?”

The pleading eyes dried up in an instant. “What?”

“I feel like you’re not telling me the whole story. Would you like to talk about anything?” Cheerilee cringed internally. Such a generic teacher approach rarely worked in an ideal scenario, and this was far from perfect. She could almost speak Aura’s next words for her.

“Nope. Can I go now?”

Cheerilee sighed in defeat. “Run along.” Aura was gone almost before she could finish speaking, and in another moment, Cheerilee was the only pony in the room.

Cheerilee sat and stared at the single knot hole on the top of her desk. The tiny little gap it left in the otherwise perfect surface glaring up at her with a sudden intensity that she had no idea it could muster. She picked at the dark imperfection with her hoof, almost wishing she could dig it out on the spot.

“I need to get some wood filler,” she muttered to herself as she rose from her chair. She dropped the stack of the day’s papers to be graded into her bag and closed the flap. Swinging the saddlebags over her back, she left her desk and stepped out into the warmth of the sunshine for the first time since that morning. It was too bad that she couldn’t take the time to enjoy it more. However, the library awaited, and with it, perhaps an answer to her question.

Nothing here either. Cheerilee flipped the book closed and shoved it off to the steadily growing pile on the right side of the table. She sighed, resting her head on her hoof and chewing on her lip as she stared at the considerably large stack. Three hours of study, and she still hadn’t found what she was looking for.

In truth, she probably had skimmed over the information she was looking for more than once. However, the way that most of the books she had picked up were written, she might have had better luck learning to fly in those three hours than trying to understand what was being said. Granted, she could approximate some of that based on context, but those tomes would have been better placed on a physician’s private shelf.

It was already getting late in the day, and the Golden Oaks library was due to close in the next twenty minutes. Grumbling to herself, Cheerilee rose from her seat, popping a few joints on her way up, and went about finding the shelves that she had pulled the books from.

She took three books on her first trip. The slot they all came from was the only one dedicated to books about the medical field, and given the small size of the library itself, she had mostly cleaned out that entire shelf. The three thick textbooks made a good dent in refilling the empty space, and she crossed back to the table and the remaining stack.

What a waste of time. Cheerilee scowled at the wooden horse head sculpture atop the table. She should have known that such a search was going to be pointless, given that she had only a few sneaking suspicions to work with.

Maybe I’m just worrying about this too much. Her scowl softened to a defeated frown as she stuffed another book back into the cubby. Did I really need to bring up learning disabilities with her father so early like that?

No, you didn’t. Way to go, Cheerilee. Her ears drooped as she picked up the final book. A mistake had been made, and she had given the family quite a scare over something that was probably an insignificant problem.

Then again, Aura’s unexpected artistic proficiency wasn’t anything to sweep under the rug.

She rammed the final book into its place with perhaps a bit more force than she’d intended. She retrieved her saddlebags from the table and slipped them over her back. With one final check of her workspace, she made for the door.

It had been a few weeks since school started, and the warmth of late summer was already starting to give way to early fall. The trees were still more than a month away from being ready to drop their leaves, but the winds of change were already beginning to blow. The breeze carried a subtle crispness; Before long, it would be time to start breaking out her winter wear.

Cheerilee shelved that train of thought. There were bigger fish to fry than her future cold weather clothing options.

Or were there? After all, every bit of her research was based on a hunch. It seemed like a very plausible one, but it was a hunch nonetheless. There was still far too much doubt in her mind as to what was going on. Regardless of what the problem might have been, there was only one true certainty.

She was going to get to the bottom of it somehow.

“Welcome back, everypony! Did you enjoy your recess?” Cheerilee greeted her class with a smile as the last of them found their seats.

“Yes, Miss Cheerilee!” the class chimed as a chorus.

“Great!” Cheerilee stepped over to a cart laden with books in the middle of the presentation area. “Now I know you’d rather go back outside, but we have more lessons to get through before I turn you all loose for the day.” A few stirs of chatter came from the children before Cheerilee held up her hoof to silence them.

“For our language arts lesson, we’re going to be reading out loud. Everypony will get their turn to read, and when they’re reading, the rest of us are going to listen to what they say.” She picked up the dozen books she needed in the crook of her foreleg, and walking down the row, she placed three on each of the front desks.

“We will be reading this book for the next few weeks. Diamond Tiara, would you read us the title and the author’s name?”

For once, Diamond didn’t even so much as scoff at being picked to do something. “The Mystery of the Scorned Mare, by Key Mash.”

“Thank you Diamond. Now, who wants to be our first volunteer to read?” Cheerilee looked around the room expectantly as a number of hooves lifted into the air. Twist was by far the most enthusiastic, and Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Piña Colada all offered their hooves as well. Despite the fact that there were volunteers, Cheerilee felt like shaking things up a bit. She let her gaze skip over those students who wanted to read, instead going for those who tried to escape being chosen first. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were two possibilities, and perhaps Rumble? Aura? As she settled her attention on the mauve filly in the corner desk, she smiled inwardly.

The first victim.

“Aura, would you like to read first?”

The filly’s head shot up from her usual inattentive slouch. “No.”

“Aw, come on! It’s not that bad,” Apple Bloom added.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve let you off the hook on classroom participation for long enough. It’s your turn to read,” Cheerilee added a stern tone to her voice, and Aura seemed to shy away from it. However, not another moment passed before her shoulders fell.

“Good.” The seriousness dropped from her tone as quickly as it had come, and Cheerilee was once again back to her normal jovial demeanor. “Everypony open your books to page three,” she said. Immediately after, a hoof went up.

“Why doesn’t it start on page one?” Sweetie Belle asked.

“They have to put the title page and everything else that they do when they start a book on the first few pages, so most books will actually start on page three or so.”

“Oh,” she said, settling back down in her chair to open her book.

“Whenever you’re ready, Aura.” Cheerilee pushed the cart back against the wall and went to her desk to take a seat.

The room stayed silent for several long moments, all eyes either fixed on their books or looking back at the filly that was about to read to them. The clock ticked the seconds away, and yet Aura still didn’t read.

Cheerilee stood back up to look back there. To her surprise, Aura was actually focused on her task. The surprise ended there, and was instead replaced by concern because Aura was glaring at the book.

Her eyes were set firmly in place, and her face was starting to strain. She stared unblinkingly down at the book before her, almost as if she were trying to set it on fire with her mind.

“Ch-chap…” She struggled with the word, cutting it off halfway through. She blinked hard, shaking her head as she did. “Chap-ter o-”

“Aura, are you alright?”

“This is making my head hurt,” Aura said, finally tearing her gaze away from the book. There was a bit of redness on her forehead under the fur, and she almost looked a bit disoriented.

“That’s… enough. Um, Twist! Twist, would you read for us please?”

“Absolutely!” Twist agreed with a bright smile full of braces. “Chapter one. A thin mist washed over a midnight meadow without a sound, draping across the land like a sheet across a bed…”

While Twist continued to read for the rest of the class, Aura let her head rest on the desk, covering her eyes with her hooves like she had a migraine. Despite Cheerilee’s best efforts to keep the class going and draw attention away from Aura, several of the students had yet to return to their books, each staring at the filly quizzically.

Cheerilee was one of the gawkers. Just the day before, she had dismissed the Aura conundrum as mere childish laziness. As she watched the filly lay still, her head resting on the desk, she began to think back to the library visit. She didn’t have time to do another research session, so she would have to go straight to the source of medical knowledge: A doctor’s office.

The little tune that Cheerilee was humming to herself was starting to get repetitive after five minutes in the waiting room. At least it was empty, so she would be next to see the doctor.

Ponyville’s hospital wasn’t known for being the best-staffed in Equestria. It was mostly a clinic for the ponies who got sick or injured during a day to day activities in the town. Thankfully for her, the hospital had a pediatrician on staff for the local children. If anyone in town would know the problem or at the very least a place to find the answer, this was it.

The door on the far wall opened, and a brown colt in a propellor hat bounded out of the door with the energy that only a child could possess. Hot on his heels was his mother, an Earth pony of a lighter shade than her son. By the look on her face, she was just a bit miffed with her son for running out of the office like he had. She muttered a “good afternoon” to Cheerilee as she passed, her pace picking up to catch her runaway foal.

“Dr. Scope will see you now,” announced the latest of the constant string of familiar voices that Cheerilee had been hearing over the past few weeks. The venerable Nurse Redheart was standing in the doorway, holding a clipboard and smiling like she always did. Like so many other things in town, she hadn’t changed at all during Cheerilee’s time in college.

“Oh good grief, is that you, Cheerilee? How long has it been?” Redheart asked, stepping aside so Cheerilee could get through the doorway.

“Three years, I know! Time flies, am I right?”

“Trust me, it only gets faster from here. So, you’re not a kid anymore. What brings you down to the pediatric ward?” The two mares turned left down a short hallway which ended at the door to Dr. Scope’s office.

“I came for advice.” Cheerilee said.

“Oh don’t tell me. You aren’t gonna have a baby of your own, are you?”

Cheerilee stopped in her tracks, stiff as a board. She was silent for a short moment before she snorted. For some reason, that question was one of the most absurd things she had ever been asked! She snorted again, and this time it was followed by a howling fit of laughter.

Nurse Redheart was at first startled by the reaction, but that didn’t last long. The laughter was infectious, and she was chuckling alongside Cheerilee shortly thereafter.

“No…” Cheerilee finally managed to choke out between giggles. “No! I’m not pregnant!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Nurse Redheart said, her own laughter finally eclipsing Cheerilee’s. It took a few more seconds for the mirth to finally die back down to a manageable level.

“Phew, I haven’t had a laugh like that in a while!” Cheerilee finally began to move forward again, and they were at Doctor Scope’s office in no time.

“Well, I’ll leave you to it. It was good to see you again, Cheerilee.”

“Maybe we can all get together sometime,” Cheerilee offered.

“I’ll look forward to it.” Nurse Redheart smiled. “Tell your mom I said hi!”

With that, Redheart spun around and began making her way back down the hall. Cheerilee watched her go for a moment, letting her get almost out of sight before she turned her gaze to the door in front of her.

Dr. Clear Scope, MD

The lettering on the door’s cloudy glass window pushed aside as Cheerilee stepped through the doorway. As the Doctor’s name went by the wayside, in its place was the mare herself. Doctor Clear Scope was a light purple unicorn, a coat shade similar to Aura’s as a matter of fact, with her mane tied back in a bun and wearing the trademark white physician’s coat. She looked up from her desk as Cheerilee entered, and stood up with a smile.

“Hello, nice to meet you. Miss…?”

“Cheerilee.” She shook the doctor’s hoof politely.

“Excellent. I notice that you don’t have a little one with you, so I’m going to guess that you came to me looking for either advice or an opinion.” Dr. Scope sat back in her chair, leaning back a bit farther than she had before.

“You would be correct,” Cheerilee said, smiling.

“Well, let’s see what I can help you with! Would you something to drink, maybe some coffee?”

Cheerilee shook her head, “No, thank you. I just had a cup a little over an hour ago.”

Cheerilee noticed that the doctor’s voice had a very familiar ring to it, though not in the way that other ponies in the town did. “I can’t help but notice your accent. Are you from Fillydelphia by chance?”

“Born and raised,” answered Dr. Scope with some pride in her tone.

“Small world! I just graduated from Bridleway a few months ago!”

“Oh, that’s where I went to school for undergrad!” The doctor pointed a hoof towards her degree on the wall, making her large earrings jingle faintly as she talked.

“I majored in elementary education, myself. I just started teaching at the schoolhouse here not too long ago.” Cheerilee paused, noticing that Dr. Scope was starting to listen more intently. “And that’s why I came to you today. You see, I have a problem student. She’s shown some highly peculiar behaviors over the past few weeks, and I wanted to know if you could help me pinpoint exactly what it is that might be the cause.”

“Have you already ruled out simple behavioral issues?” asked Dr. Scope.

“Yes, I’m positive that the problem runs deeper than that. Here,” Cheerilee dug into her bag and fished out the same drawing that she had shown Nook and Pencil Pusher, passing it across to the doctor. “That was drawn by a ten-year-old filly who can barely write her own name.”

The doctor silently considered the drawing for a moment before she lowered it to the desk. “How does she behave in class?”

“Well, she seems... detached when all of the other students are engaging with the material. She barely pays attention, and I haven’t seen her really interact with the other children at all.” Cheerilee searched her mind to find all of the instances of Aura’s behaviors that could be considered evidence. That was most of the entire problem, but she was saving the biggest one for last.

The episode from earlier that afternoon.

“And one more thing,” she started, taking a breath. “Today in class, we had an assigned reading where the children would read a book out loud. When it was her turn, she had trouble reading anything at all, and she began complaining of headaches before I let her pass up on the turn.”

Dr. Scope rested her chin on her hooves, staring ahead at the far wall intently. She was silent for a few moments, during which time Cheerilee waited with bated breath.

“Interesting,” said Clear Scope, finally breaking the silence.

“What do you think?” Cheerilee asked.

“You strike me as a sharp young mare. Do you want it straight, or with a little introduction first?” Dr. Scope put both of her hooves on the desk, looking Cheerilee straight in the eyes.

“Give it to me straight, Doctor,” Cheerilee said, her breath catching in her throat.


Author's Note:

I bet you're just a little bit cheesed at the fact that instead of seeing what happens next, you're now reading an author's note where I completely change the tone of things. Fret not, for there will be another update coming down the pipe in the not-so-distant future!

I just realized how useless this Author's Note is going to be after the next update. :facehoof:

Anyhoo, credit to Lord-Commander for the edits, and thanks to you for continuing to read. See you at the next chapter!