• Published 15th Jun 2021
  • 203 Views, 26 Comments

Back to School - Coyote de La Mancha

Along with being Princess Twilight's apprentice, Sunrise Shimmer hopes to become Ms. Cheerilee's teaching assistant. The first day is often the most challenging.

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Epilogue: Assessment.

“The best part of the job is the foals,” Cheerilee said as they finished their last-minute tidying of the classroom. “The hardest part is their parents.”

Sunrise gave her a wry grin. “Yeah. I hadn’t noticed.”

The sun had begun to descend a while ago, and, with apologies, Cheerilee had assured Sunrise that school days didn’t normally last quite so long. With the students’ periods ending around three, they’d usually be locking up by around six or so.

But today had been unusual. The first day, of course, tended to be one of the longest. And then, there had been the Rich family. And then their own discussions, making plans for not only the next several weeks’ lessons, but also for the upcoming play.

“Can we really count on the funding, though?” Sunrise had asked towards the end. “Spoiled didn’t strike me as a pony who’d give up leverage lightly.”

“We can,” Cheerilee had assured her with a knowing smile. “It may be Spoiled who made the arrangement, but it’ll be Filthy who signs the check. Mr. Rich is his wife’s opposite in all the best ways possible. If you ever meet him, you’ll see what I mean.”

A short time later, the two of them were outside the small schoolhouse. Cheerilee locked the door and stashed the key in her saddlebags, and the two of them began an amicable walk back into Ponyville proper. Sunrise limping, Cheerilee insisting on carrying her bags and seeing her to the princess’ castle.

Several minutes later, Cheerilee spoke.

“Let’s see, with your apprenticeship to Princess Twilight, you’ll usually be doing half-days,” she mused. “We can figure out the details as we go. Still, we’ll have to get you your own key. I can run by the locksmith before… no, they’ll be closed by the time I get there…”

“A key to the place and everything, huh?” Sunrise grinned. “So… I guess that makes it official. Look out world, Ponyville’s got a new T.A.”

“Well, I didn’t know what you called it in your old country,” Cheerilee said happily. “But yes, by whatever name, I think it’s safe to say that Ponyville has two teachers now.”

Sunrise froze, then whipped her head around to stare at the other mare. For her part, Cheerilee halted as well, giving the younger mare with an amused look.

“Wait,” Sunrise said. “Teacher? But I’m not…”

“Qualified?” Cheerilee cut her off with a smile. Placing a gentle hoof on Sunrise’s withers, she added, “I’m sorry, but I have to disagree.”


“Being a teacher isn’t just about lectures, and grading tests and homework. Though you’ll be doing plenty of that too, believe me,” Cheerilee added with a wink. “You’re still learning the trade, and I’m going to take terrible advantage of you while I can.

“But being a teacher isn’t just about facts and numbers. You can get those out of a book. It’s about encouraging young minds, encouraging their inquisitiveness and enthusiasm, and hoping they never lose it. Not just helping them learn, but teaching them how to learn, and showing them the joy of learning.

“Above all, though, teaching is about guiding the young, and guarding them. Being the guide they need away from home, as they slowly grow into their own strength; and being their protector in as many ways as you can, until they can protect themselves.

“That’s what I saw you doing today,” Cheerilee smiled. “Not just in the classroom or the playground, though it was a delight watching you working with the foals. But when Diamond Tiara needed you, you reached out to her. Whatever you said to her, by the swing set and in the woods, you were able to reach her in a way I was never able to.”

Looking away, she continued, “Until last year, I’d given up on her. Her and Silver Spoon both. I hadn’t even realized it at the time, but I had. Not my proudest achievement.”

She sighed, then squared her shoulders, saying, “Fortunately, there’s still time to recover from my mistake. Silver Spoon has gotten even worse, in her own way, but I know it’s not too late to help her. And Diamond Tiara isn’t suffering like she was, because she has friends. They were there for her then.”

Cheerilee smiled again, adding, “And you were there for her today.”

But Sunrise shook her head. “What? No, that wasn’t me, that was her. She knew what she wanted. I just gave a little…”

“…guidance,” Cheerilee finished for her. “Exactly. And you made peace with her mother at the same time, at least for the moment. Which believe me, is no mean feat. You’ll fail more often than you’ll succeed where Spoiled Rich is concerned, but for tonight Diamond’s probably safe from her mother’s barbs and jabs.”

Then, making a sour face, she added a begrudging, “Probably.”

Cheerilee turned, and looked back towards the schoolhouse, lost in thought. Sunrise did likewise. The sun was beginning to slowly descend behind it, the shadows it cast lengthening. Without the vibrancy of its cheerful red paint and the sounds of young voices within, it suddenly seemed old to Sunrise, and full of memories. Nowhere near as ancient as the palace, of course. But still something that stretched back generations, with a thousand stories to tell.

Glancing at the mare next to her, Sunrise wondered how old Cheerilee really was. She was still a terrible judge of pony age, and hanging out with the princesses all the time was certainly no help. But to Sunrise, Cheerilee sounded like she was maybe in her thirties. Thinking on Equestria and what she knew of its culture, it seemed to her that Cheerilee had probably started teaching – or at least started learning to teach – at, what? Fifteen? Maybe younger, as an apprentice of some kind while still a student herself?

She’s probably spent half her life doing this, Sunrise thought. Fifteen years or more, in that little building. And decades from now, she’ll still be there. Shuffling papers, grading tests, encouraging her students, helping them grow. Guarding them, until they can guard themselves. And bleeding a little with each one of them, every time they get hurt.

And, she had to admit, that didn’t sound like a bad life at all.

Then, the other mare spoke again, cutting into her reverie.

“You’re a teacher, Sunrise,” Cheerilee said quietly. “The hours are long, the job mostly thankless, and the risks to your heart are endless. But you get to guide your students. And you get to help keep them safe, while they grow strong.

“So long as you’re doing that, I don’t see calling you anything else.”

Author's Note:

This continuity continues in If You Would Friend a Tiger..., though there will eventually be stories between that one and this.

And, of course, the seminal story that starts it all begins here.

Comments ( 1 )

Lovely capstone to this one. Though I do worry for Silver Spoon. Here's hoping she doesn't get any worse before she starts getting better. In any case, thank you for a great tale of Sunrise finding her place.

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