• Published 24th May 2015
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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 Six: Dodgeball

“Dyslexia?”

“Considering what you just told me about it, that’s the one thing that comes to mind.” Dr. Scope spun around in her chair, scooting across to the far wall where she pulled the bottom drawer of a black filing cabinet open.

“Well, are you sure?” Cheerilee asked.

“Of course not,” Scope said, not looking up from her cabinet. “Tests would need to be done to make an official diagnosis, but I’ve seen a lot of poor foals with that condition. You wouldn’t be able to tell that there was anything wrong with them, that is until you ask them to read.”

“That sounds a lot like A— my student.” Not wanting to reveal Aura’s name, Cheerilee had to bite her tongue at the mention. Dr. Scope didn’t seem to notice. “It’s been a long time since I learned about dyslexia in college. Could you refresh my memory?”

“Sure!” Dr. Scope dug around in the cabinet and floated two items out. One was a pamphlet and the other appeared to be a thin packet of papers. The doctor placed them on Cheerilee’s side of the desk before shutting the drawer with a soft click before scooting back over to her desk. “Dyslexia is what we call a cognitive disorder. In general, it causes problems with reading, but there are a lot of different types of dyslexia. Some of them affect reading aloud, some others mess with comprehension, and they can even cause problems with word recognition.”

“Well, how do you tell the difference?” Cheerilee asked.

“That packet I just gave you tells all.” Cheerilee picked up the papers in question, studying them while Dr. Scope continued talking. “It’s instructions for how to administer a test for dyslexia yourself. You should be able to figure it out based on the foal’s responses to the test. Either that, or I could do the test if her parents would consent to it.”

“Oh right, her parents,” Cheerilee muttered to herself.

“What was that?” Dr. Scope asked.

Cheerilee cleared her throat. “You just reminded me. I spoke with her father two days ago, and when I mentioned her problems in class, he seemed disturbed by the fact that it could be a problem other than misbehavior.”

“That happens a lot,” replied Dr. Scope as she rubbed her chin in thought. “Parents rarely want to believe that something could be wrong with their children. Did he say anything else?”.

“Apparently I awakened something inside of him, because my student came to me yesterday asking ‘what did I do to her daddy?’ According to her, he was suddenly overbearing about her schoolwork.”

“A typical response,” said Clear Scope, waving her hoof.

Cheerilee brought a hoof to her chin. “I don’t think that her parents would take too kindly to me running that test without their knowledge.” She paused for a minute, the weight of that statement sinking in. “Oh boy.”

“Yeah, that could be fun,” mused the doctor with a grin, which disappeared when she caught sight of the clock. “Oh, ponyfeathers. Cheerilee, I’m sorry, but I must cut this short. I have another appointment before wrapping up for the day. Do you have any more questions?”

“Oh no, I think I have it under control from here. Thank you so much for you time,” said Cheerilee.

“It was my pleasure!” Dr. Scope and Cheerilee rose from their chairs simultaneously and shook hooves. “Stop by any time you need more advice.”

“I will,” Cheerilee agreed, taking both the packet and the pamphlet and depositing them into her saddlebags. “I’ll see myself out. Have a great day, Doctor!”

“You too, Cheerilee. It was nice meeting you!”

Cheerilee pulled the door open and stepped back into the hall. The door pulled itself closed with a click, and Cheerilee started on her way out of the office with some haste in her step.



The playground was a magical place.

Recess to a foal was a time of unparalleled glory, second only to a birthday or Hearth’s Warming. It was a time of relaxation, where the children could run free and let out all of the energy that had pent up during the long morning of sitting still in a chair and listening to Cheerilee teach. It was a time of camaraderie, where new friends were made and where old ones united for a half hour of fun that could only be limited by the short time it existed.

Most of all, it was a place where the imagination could truly run free. For Aura, that was what made recess so special. She could be anything she wanted to be, do anything she could dream of doing…

...and she didn’t have to sit in that horrible classroom for a half hour each day.

She shook her head. Class wasn’t what mattered at the moment. Instead, she needed to focus on the task at hand: Fighting off the invading army!

She could hear the cannon fire whizzing over her head as she jumped out of the way just in the nick of time. The artillery shell must have exploded somewhere nearby, but that wasn’t a problem at the moment. There were more coming, and if she sat still, she was toast.

Another soldier in front of her was hit, the shell knocking him to the ground like a sack of potatoes as it ricocheted nearly straight upwards. Seeing her chance, Aura charged ahead in anticipation of the ammo about to come her way. As it hit its apex and began to descend, she leapt into the air and carefully cupped the sensitive cannonball in her front hooves.

Gotcha.

When she landed back on the ground with a soft grunt, she turned to her left in search of a target. The smoke of the battle was hard to see through, but she finally managed to pick out her target through the haze. An orange-furred soldier out in the open, attempting to recover a cannonball of her own.

She licked her lips, time seeming to slow around her as she cocked her right foreleg back in preparation. The wind was right, and so were the other… things that needed to happen for artillery work.

She took a breath and then swung her foreleg out to launch the cannonball at the unsuspecting enemy. The shot was perfect, sailing through the air with a cold, almost unfeeling callousness toward its victim. The filly didn’t even look up before it hit.

Smack! The enemy disappeared into the cloud of dust thrown up by the explosion. Aura grinned, beaming at her achievement.

“You’re out!” she announced, her smile widening by the second. She flicked her tail smugly, preparing to begin the ceremonial killshot dance.

Smack!

Aura reeled as an unexpected volley of cannon fire sank into her shoulder, sending a sting of pain as she fell to the ground. The light faded as the smoke and blackness of death overtook her, and a number of thoughts ran through her tormented mind while she fell.

How had it all come to this?

What would she tell her family?

Would Celestia be there to meet her after it was all over?

“You’re out, that’s the game!” came the shout from across the division line. Just like that, the grit and seriousness of the battlefield melted away. The bare dirt worn free of grass by the constant shelling suddenly faded into a lush carpet of green, and Aura heaved herself to her hooves to come face to face with the rest of her classmates in open playing field on the far side of the playground. The foals who still had dodgeballs were already lining them up on the centerline for the next game, while several others had set off after the ones that had gone astray.

“Who got me?” Aura asked to nopony in particular, looking around hopefully.

“I think it was me.” A filly's voice from behind her answered. Aura turned to face the speaker, and was met by a white unicorn filly with a flowing, curly two-tone purple mane. “I don’t think we talked before. My name’s Sweetie Belle, who are you?”

“I’m Aura,” she returned, her voice trailing off a bit sheepishly now that the thrill of the game had started to fade.

“Nice to meet—”

“Alright everypony, new game!” announced the voice of the orange filly who Aura had tagged earlier, cutting Sweetie Belle off mid-sentence. “Everypony line up! Next team captains are me and Rumble!”

Fillies and colts scampered to form a line in front of both the orange filly and Rumble, the colt who sat in front of her desk. Her gaze lingered on the orange filly, and she realized just how few of these foals she knew by name.

Aura hated having to learn names at a new school.

“Apple Bloom, you’re with me!” announced the orange pegasus filly, snapping Aura’s attention back to the present. Apple Bloom, a filly she actually knew by name, trotted across to fall in behind the orange filly, and then it was Rumble’s turn.

“Diamond Tiara,” said Rumble, and the pink diva went to join him, her head held back at a haughty angle.

Aura didn’t like that filly.

“Aura!” Aura hesitated for a second, slightly surprised that she had been called so early in the picking; she was usually one of the last to go. She trotted forward and claimed her place behind orange what’s-her-name, standing next to Apple Bloom.

“Piña Colada!” Rumble announced.

Since she was already picked and had nothing better to do, Aura decided to seize the opportunity and tap Apple Bloom on the shoulder.

Psst.”

“What?”

“What’s her name?” Aura asked in a whisper, pointing at the orange filly with her foreleg.

Her name’s Scootaloo. You’re new, ain’t ya?” Apple Bloom whispered back.

Yeah.”

“Well I’m Apple Bloom. Nice to meet ya,” she said, offering her hoof.

Aura gave her a hoofbump. “I’m Aura.”

“Alright everypony, go back to your sides and get ready to play!” Scootaloo announced, once again cutting conversation short. A few other children were gathered around now, and at their captain's lead, the teams separated to their respective sides of the field. Rumble’s team consisted of Diamond Tiara; Silver Platter, if she remembered Diamond’s sidekick’s name correctly; Piña Colada; and Sweetie Belle. Her own side was made up by Scootaloo, herself, Apple Bloom, a colt who was so skinny that he looked like he could blow away in the wind, and a short, tubby colt whose name she didn’t remember.

The wind began to pick up as the tension mounted. Scootaloo shouted out the ready signal, which was reciprocated by Rumble, and then a short countdown by Scootaloo brought the wait time into a short, tense moment. Aura closed her eyes, listening to the numbers as they were listed off.

As the count neared one, she opened her eyes to see that the field had disappeared, its place taken by the same scarred battlefield from earlier. The munitions sat just ahead, and just beyond them were the ravenous eyes of her enemies. She knew that she would have a fighting chance if she managed to get to the centerline first, so that she would be the first to fire a shot.

In the back of her mind, she silently thanked her brother for sneaking her into that war movie at the theater. It made for great imagination on the playground!

Back in the battle, the whistle of Lieutenant Scootaloo chirped sharply, and her comrades around her rushed forward to the supplies in the center of the battlefield. She followed along with them, galloping as hard as she could in order to reach them first. The enemy was closing in fast, predatory looks of determination gleaming off of their read eyes.

Aura reached the weapons first, skidding to a halt in front of the battleline before her. She reached for the ball in front of her, flipping it up into the cup of her hoof. She began to turn around so that she could retreat back to cover and work out a plan of attack, her hooves beginning to dig into the soil in earnest.

Smack! Stinging, tingling pain filled her vision as a ball rammed itself into her nose. Hard. She stumbled back, dazed by the impact as the ball bounced away.

Smack! She could have dealt with the first hit on her nose, but the second ball that hit her on the left side of her neck was completely unexpected. She fell to the ground, dazed by the near-simultaneous hits to her head. The ball in her hoof rolled away, crossing the line to the opponent’s side of the field. As she began to come back to her senses, a voice from in front of her filled her ears and grabbed her attention.

“Oh no, Silver Spoon! I think we knocked her even stupider than she was before!” Diamond Tiara’s snobbish, pointed taunt burned into her ears like molten metal.

“Whoa, whoa, time out!” Scootaloo called from some distance away. A number of hoofbeats were approaching from all sides.

Aura opened her eyes to see Silver Spoon standing over her with a smirk on her lips. “Maybe she’s too dumb to feel that!”

Aura felt tears well up in her eyes almost instantly. Diamond Tiara was circling in now too, like a shark to blood.

“Hey, cut it out!” said Apple Bloom. Despite the fact that there were some ponies on her side, Aura didn’t notice them. The only thing she could see was the two bullies standing over her, and the only thing on her mind was escaping their attacks. More tears welled up in her eyes as she scrambled to her hooves.

“Yeah, run away, dummy!” the pair of bullies taunted in unison. Aura didn’t look back as she tore away from the playing field, and she shut off her hearing to escape the insults raining her direction.

Once she was far enough away, the first of her quiet, choked sobs came up with more hot tears. She exited the playground, running as fast as her little hooves could carry her away from the torment.

She could only hope that Miss Cheerilee wouldn’t notice until she had escaped.

Author's Note:

I debated adding another scene to follow up after this, but I think that the next scene works better on the other side of the chapter division.

Also, if you thought I was going to do anything other than make Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon unlikeable, you have another thing coming. In fact, I think I made them more malicious here than they are in the show. Go figure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Thanks to Lord-Commander and KillerShadow 15 for their help, and I will see you all at the next chapter!