• 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 Eight: Take-Home Test

Cheerilee bit her lip as she twirled a pencil against the desk with her hoof.

Question Four: The child’s reading or writing shows repetitions, transpositions, omissions, additions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.

She let out a sigh and pulled open one of her desk drawers, fishing out the writing assignments that the class had done earlier in the day. She flipped through the stack, pulling Aura’s and Silver Spoon’s from the middle and placing them carefully next to the packet she was reading from.

Dr. Scope’s dyslexia test packet.

She dropped the rest of the assignments back into the drawer and scooted back up to her desk, taking a glance at the filly sitting alone in front of her. Aura was serving out her sentence of afternoon detention for skipping out of class yesterday, but was seemingly having a difficult time staying focused on her punishment. She was resting her head on her hoof, her eyelids drooping.

“Aura, wake up! You’ve still got another twenty minutes to go.” The filly roused, but only slightly. Cheerilee gave her a cautionary glare before she returned to her work.

Cheerilee looked down at Aura’s writing assignment, and as she expected, it was near-impossible to read. The writing scrawled across the page was erratic, sometimes growing too big for the lines and immediately afterwards shrinking so small that it was impossible to discern. There was even a reversed ‘r’ in one place. Not only was the hoofwriting poor, but in comparison to the other students’ works she’d already looked over, it was also considerably shorter. Whereas Silver Spoon looked to have written about eight lines worth, Aura had only gotten through three and a half.

Cheerilee frowned, squinting as she tried to make out one of the much smaller words. After a few seconds, she pushed the page aside. Answer to question four: Strong Yes.

Number five. The foal has been labeled as lazy, dumb, “behaviorally challenged”, or “not trying hard enough.”

She looked up to Aura, who was staring straight ahead at the clock. Maybe to somepony who didn’t care about her, but not to me.

Maybe there was somepony who didn’t care about her all too much. Cheerilee flipped the top off of her water bottle and took a drink, and smiled as it dawned on her. Of course! I should go pull her old class records and see what her other teachers have said about her!

Cheerilee looked up at the clock, which read four-fifteen. Another fifteen minutes left in detention. She turned back to the packet on her desk and its questions. She flipped through the rest of the pages. The last question was marked forty-one, and below that was a chart to score the test under.

Most all of these are questions I could answer without her here. She flipped the booklet closed and reclined back in her chair, staring up at the ceiling. There was already a pinhole in it, she noticed, probably from the likes of Rumble or Diamond Tiara throwing their pencil and trying to stick it in the ceiling.. Of course, there’s a few questions I would like to ask her. She leaned forward, coming back face to face with the filly, who was already starting to droop again.

“Aura?”

“I’m awake!” she said, sitting up ramrod straight.

“You’re not in trouble, Aura. I just wanted to ask you a question or two.” Cheerilee rose from her seat, taking a new one next to the filly.

“Okay,” Aura agreed.

“Do you remember two days ago when I asked you to read aloud for the class?” Cheerilee asked.

“Yeah?” Aura asked, giving Cheerilee a quizzical look.

Cheerilee cleared her throat. “Well, I just wanted to know what was wrong.”

“Reading always makes my head hurt.”

“Does anything specific about it make your head hurt?”

“I don’t know. It just hurts when I read stuff.” Cheerilee almost missed it, but was becoming rather apparent that Aura was trying to avoid eye contact.

“Well, have you ever seen anything like, say, words floating off the page?” It wasn’t very subtle, but given that Aura more than likely had no idea what dyslexia was, she probably wasn’t going to notice where Cheerilee was going with the question.

“No, they don’t float.”

Cheerilee deflated. That was probably the most classic sign she knew of—

“But they do move around a lot.”

“They… move?” Cheerilee asked.

“Yeah. They just keep moving around the page on me. It’s really hard to keep them all together.”

Well if that isn’t the most obvious clue.

“Anything else?”

“That’s it.”

Cheerilee looked up at the clock. Four-nineteen. The district administrative offices closed at five, and it was a good fifteen minute walk over there. She needed to get going quick.

“Well, I know there’s supposed to be another ten minutes of detention, but I guess you’ve suffered enough. You can go.”

“Yay!” Aura jumped up from her desk and threw her saddlebags over her back.

To Cheerilee’s surprise, she didn’t go straight for the door like always. Instead, Aura stopped her normal rapid exit just long enough to give her teacher a quick hug. “Thanks, Miss Cheerilee!” Of course, as quickly as Cheerilee could realize that she’d been hugged, the filly was already halfway to the door.

“You’re welcome, Aura. Have a good day!” Cheerilee got up and walked back towards her own desk. “She’s such a sweetheart,” she said to herself. She walked back towards the front of the room with a happy little smile on her face, but as she neared her desk, she slowed her pace. The smile eroded quickly when she looked back at the test packet sitting on the desk.

“I seriously need to talk to her parents about this,” Cheerilee said, frowning. There is no way I’m going to get anywhere just by talking to Aura.

Her frown turned to a grimace when her thoughts settled on Pencil Pusher. The idea of bringing up Aura’s problem with him again was a daunting proposition. Daisy seemed more level-headed than her husband, though. Maybe she could rein him in enough that they could get somewhere.

Another problem for another day, she thought. She was going to need to hurry in order to make it down to the records building. They liked to start shutting things down early.



“Hello!” Cheerilee called as she walked through the front door to the school’s administration building.

“Oh hi, Cheerilee! How was today?” asked Single File, the receptionist. Her mane was done up in a bun, and her thick glasses made her eyes appear larger, but only slightly.

“Just fine, thank you. I wanted to come by and request academic records for one of my students.”

“Sure thing. What’s her name?” asked File.

“Aura.” said Cheerilee. File pulled a list from her desk drawer. She began slowly scrolling down the page, miming the names to herself. When File made it halfway down the list, Cheerilee frowned. Aura should have been one of the first students on the list.

“Her mother’s name is Daisy,” Cheerilee offered. File jumped back up to the top of the page.

“Sorry. It’s just been one of those days, you know?”

“I totally understand,” said Cheerilee.

“Alright, let me go pull those records for you.” File hopped up from her chair and walked towards the back room. “Just a second,” she said as she disappeared through the doorway. Cheerilee leaned up against the wall, tapping her hoof while she waited. A few minutes passed before File came from the back room.

“I got good news and bad news.” File announced, throwing down the folder, which Cheerilee noted was suspiciously thin.

“What is it?” Cheerilee gulped.

“Well, we have her on file, but we don’t have anything from before this year.”

“Her mother mentioned that they’d moved here from Vanhoover, could that have something to do with it?”

“Hmm, probably so.” File flipped the folder open and leafed through the few pages contained in it. “Yep, that’s what it is. I have it here that she transferred, but it looks like Vanhoover hasn’t sent us her academic records yet.”

With every word, Cheerilee felt her hopes fade little by little. “How soon do you think we could get them?” she asked.

“Well, you know how slow the mail system works. I’d say that if I sent the request form now, it could be here by the middle of next week, of course depending on how fast they get to it.”

Cheerilee blew a puff of air into her bangs. “That’s disappointing, but I guess I just have to wait. Is there any way we can expedite the mail?”

“Unless you’re willing to pay the six extra bits to get it there two days sooner, then I’m afraid not,” said File.

“I’ll do it.”

“What?” File looked quite surprised.

“I said I’ll pay for the expedited mail. I really need those records.”

“Whatever for?” asked the secretary.

“Let’s just say I have a hunch that this filly is struggling in class for a pretty serious reason. I need to see her records to make sure.”

“Oh, I see. I’ll get that form ready, and because you’re putting it through express mail, you’ll have to take it by the post office.” File lit her horn and began writing the letter at a pace that Cheerilee could only dream of matching.

Sometimes I wish I was a unicorn, she thought.

It took a few minutes for File to finish the request form, and Cheerilee spent those hovering over the desk, watching with acute interest as she wrote the letter. Finally, she sealed the letter and passed it to Cheerilee.

“Cheerilee, I know I’m just a secretary and all, but it sounds like this is a pretty serious issue. Didn’t you say that one of your students might have some kind of disability?”

Cheerilee nodded. “I don’t know for sure, File. That’s why I’m sending off for those records in such a hurry.”

File frowned. “Well, don’t you think you ought to let somepony in the board know?”

“You know how the board works, File. They meet once a month, and only for emergencies outside of that.” Cheerilee stuffed the letter into her saddlebag. “I don’t want to call an emergency meeting unless I know for sure.”

“They met last week though. Are you really going to wait three more weeks to talk to them?”

“That’s why I’m doing this myself. We’re a really small school district, and those ponies on the school board have their own lives to deal with. I’m going to wait until I have all of the evidence I need before I start raising alarm bells.”

“Well, I hope you find out what you’re looking for.”

“Thanks, File. Say hi to Berry for me!” Cheerilee smiled and turned to leave. She took a glance at the clock on the wall, and her stomach dropped. It was four forty-nine, and the post office closed at five.

The post office was halfway across town. As soon as Cheerilee was out the door, she was off in a gallop.



Cheerilee stared down at the packet on her desk, scowling. Her glare was focused on the corner of the lightly-crumpled paper, on that pesky little staple that bound the entire thing together. That little devil that kept the pages from moving freely. She wanted so badly to take the pages apart and spread them out across the desk, but she also didn’t want to have the corner of every page ripped out.

I swear, that thing is mocking me.

Cheerilee blinked. Was I just having a staring contest with a staple? She’d been sitting in place for over an hour, and her back was starting to complain. It was time to get up and stretch, come back with a fresh perspective.

She pushed her chair out and stood up, arching her back to work the kink out of it. She yawned as she stretched, and she could feel her blood flowing more freely. She put a little extra emphasis on her stretch, and her back popped with a sort of finality. She relaxed and shook her head, her mane whipping around to brush against her nose.

“That’s better,” she muttered, retaking her seat. She scooted forward, looked down at the packet on the desk below her, and sighed.

There’s no way I can answer all of these questions myself. She flipped the page over and skimmed her way down the list. Most of the questions on the page were only partially rooted in academics. Question twenty-five was asking whether or not the child wet the bed past the normal age, while number twenty-six dealt with her sleep habits. Cheerilee closed the packet and pushed it off to the side. The test was obviously not intended for somepony like her to fill out. She only knew Aura during the school day, and that had been for about a month and a half. The test was obviously meant to be filled out by someone who knew her much more personally than she did.

Like her parents.

“This was a terrible idea,” Cheerilee muttered under her breath. She was no mother to Aura, and here she was, trying to act like she had some sort of authority over the filly’s life.

Cheerilee groaned and pulled the packet back over in front of herself, and she pulled her well-worn block eraser from the drawer. Thank goodness I wrote in pencil, she thought before she ground the eraser into the page, blotting out her responses from the questions she could answer.

She wiped away the eraser shavings with her hoof. There was still the faint hint of erasing left on the page. I doubt Daisy will notice when I give this to her.

Cheerilee grabbed a folder from the shelf next to her desk and slid the packet inside. She set the folder aside and looked over to the stack of ungraded essays that she still had yet to get through. No matter how much she sat and worried about what would happen with Aura, she still had to do her job. She pulled out her trusty pink grading pen and her half-used sheet of stickers from the drawer, pulled the first essay from the stack, and set to work.

Author's Note:

After far too long, we're back in the saddle, and making progress one again!

Thanks to L-Comm for the edits, and thanks for the readership. I'll be seeing you all next time!