• Published 3rd Nov 2012
  • 6,656 Views, 160 Comments

The Lesson Plans of a Winning Teacher - Cloudhammer

It's never easy being the only teacher in a town like Ponyville.

  • ...

The Pony Who Just Wanted to Read

I love my job. Really, I do. Granted, lots of ponies say that, but to be honest, I’ve seen lots of ponies doing jobs that they’re good at but don’t truly love. What I do is important enough to me that I don’t even know if I can really call what I do a ‘job.’ A job is something that you have to do, like homework. This, this a passion, a calling, and often not one that’s appreciated by its primary beneficiaries.

“So, if you turn to page fifty-three in your books, you’ll see that Silver Coin’s wise guidance to Princess Celestia helped establish the peace accord with the griffon nations that persists to this day...” I paused as the quiet groans inevitably came from the foals in the chairs behind me. I turned slightly, and could see several of them quickly looking away from the windows. “Now everypony, I know that history might not be interesting to you, but it’s important to at least have some understanding of it.”

“But Ms. Cheerilee, this stuff is boooooring! And it’s almost the weekend!” I didn’t even need to look to know who the protest came from. I turned my head further and fixed the speaker with a cool stare.

“Scootaloo, I am well aware of what day it is. And I’m sure that you’d want to avoid another talk with your parents.” I kept my smile to myself as Scootaloo flinched lower in her seat, the other foals in the class breaking out into giggles. The sun shining in the window caught my eye, and I smiled a little. “Although, since it is such a lovely day out, if you all can promise me to have your family drawings turned in at the start of class on Monday, I’ll let you get a little extra time off.”

I had to fight down a laugh as twelve heads bobbed in unison before my students hurriedly threw their supplies into saddlebags and galloped out the door. As it swung closed them, I settled back behind the desk to start grading the last quiz. Predictably, Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon had gotten perfect scores. And as predictably, it looked like I would be having yet another parent-teacher conference with Snails's family, as well as Scootaloo's and Diamond Tiara's. Being a businesspony, I'd've thought Filthy Rich would take that much red ink a little more seriously. At least Apple Bloom and Keebler had improved their scores from last time.

Finally finishing the last of the quizzes, I looked up to see that the sun was getting close to the horizon, and pushed myself to my hooves. I tossed my saddlebags over my back and trotted out the door. I walked down the hall to the steps, but stopped as I saw the mailbox flag was up. That was odd, usually the mail was delivered before the start of the school day. Maybe they’d just scheduled Derpy to deliver, and she’d forgotten until the end of her run. I opened it, only seeing a single letter contained within.

Now more confused than ever, I pulled it out and felt my chest tighten as I saw the seal of the Equestrian Ministry of Education emblazoned in the top corner. I was barely aware of my rump hitting the ground, all my attention focused on that simple envelope. Briefly, I contemplated just putting the letter back into the mailbox, going home, and pretending I didn’t see anything at all. After all, six years running and I’d yet to see a letter from them that didn’t promise stressful nights and general frustration.

With a heavy sigh I opened the letter, wishing that for once I’d gotten a ‘Great job Cheerilee, nothing to throw off your schedule’ letter.

Ms. Cheerilee,

Your annual teacher’s inspection is coming due, and will be conducted one month from next Monday, by Mr. Proper Place. Please ensure that your class and materials are prepared for this inspection. If you have need to contact the Ministry of Education with any questions, the request must be submitted through the Ministry secretary in triplicate...

I skipped through much of the rest, the bureau-speak the same with every letter they’d ever sent.

...And in conclusion, this letter is considered to be official documentation of the Ministry of Education, and must be retained for all archival purposes.

Gold Star

Special Assistant to the Minister of Education

Chairpony of the Special Commission for the Continuation of Educational Excellence

“Oh, buck me. The world really does hate me, doesn’t it?”

I stared blankly at the page for a few seconds before hanging my head. Of course, the Ministry of Education never sends nice letters. How could I forget the inspection, it always happens in the spring. Although, given the strange events that’ve been happening ever since Twilight moved to town, from the dragon to the parasprites to that massive brawl over that doll... and that love poison...

I pushed myself back to my hooves, tucked the letter into my saddlebags, and started the walk across town to my home. I decided to swing through the market on the way, hoping to see some friendly faces to offset the gloom the letter had just dropped into my life.

“Hey Cheerilee!” I glanced over to see who was calling my name. Hearing Roseluck's voice put a bit of spring in my step and knocked me out of that little funk I'd been in.

“Hello Rose, how was your day?” I called as I trotted over toward her cart.

“Long, but not too bad. Ended up selling pretty much all of my flowers. How about you?” she asked as she stepped out from behind the cart. She was in the middle of stacking up her empty baskets, the cart already closed down.

“Well, the students are as lively as ever, but I got a letter from the Ministry of Education today. They want to conduct my inspection next month,” I said, trying to stay positive about it, but some of it must’ve come out sour, because Rose nodded sympathetically.

“Well, everypony around town knows how hard you work. Just don’t let it bother you too much.” She rummaged around the remaining baskets and selected a half-dozen assorted flowers. “Here, have these, they’ll make you feel better.”

“Thanks, Rose,” I said with a smile as I tucked the flowers into my bag, munching on a lily as I trotted away. I’d always thought Rose and I had a lot in common, we both worked hard, with little to no thanks from the targets of our efforts, yet in the end we both produced things of beauty. As I finished the lily, I craned my head around for another, not noticing the pink blur until it had collided with me, sending me, the flowers, and my saddlebags sprawling to the ground in a heap.

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry Cheerilee, I didn’t see you there!” a high pitched voice chirped. I felt hooves grab hold of me and haul me to my hooves in a rush, saddlebags and my flowers somehow coming along for the ride.

“And good afternoon to you, Pinkie.” I shook my head to clear the last few stars out of my vision. “What has you so worked up at this time of day?” The tiny voice of reason in the back of my head was screaming at me about bad ideas as Pinkie opened her mouth.

“Weeeeeeeell... I was hanging out at Sugarcube Corner wondering when the day would be over so I could get to hang out with Rainbow Dash, and that’s when I met Fluttershy who was shopping for sweets for Angel, and then she left and then Rainbow Dash came to pay me a visit at the end of the day and we kissed and that was nice.” The unstoppable juggernaut paused for a second, a warm smile on her face; then the moment ended, and she was off again. “And then we got to talking and decided on a game of tag for what we’re going to do tonight! I won the last game but I don’t know if Rainbow liked my idea, so I was gonna let her win tonight.”

Pinkie looked like she was going to say something else when her left ear swiveled in a circle while her forelegs quivered. Then her ear suddenly snapped out, pointing up and behind her slightly. “There she is, see you later Cheerilee!” In another blur of pink, she was vanishing around the closest corner just as a rainbow-maned blur thudded to the ground.

“Ouch... Dangit, thought I had her that time. Hey Cheerilee.” Rainbow Dash took a second to pick herself up, fluttering her wings with a look of determination etched onto her muzzle. “I’m going to catch her now if it kills me!” I threw up a foreleg to shield myself from the dust Rainbow kicked up, though doing so meant that my flowers went everywhere in the backdraft. I felt the sneezes coming and tried to hold them back, but to no avail. Once I’d finally gotten the dust out of my nose, I double checked my saddlebags to make sure nothing else had been flung down the street.

I admit, I’d been as surprised as everypony else when Rainbow Dash had gotten together with Pinkie Pie, though a pony’d have to be blind to miss all the signs Pinkie had been laying out in the lead-up to last Hearts and Hooves Day. I involuntarily shuddered at the memory of my own misadventures that day, though at least no permanent harm had come of it.

Finally, I smiled as the familiar shape of my home came into view. I trotted inside and dropped the saddlebags by the door, the letter forgotten for the moment. I decided to get dinner first and headed for the kitchen and the icebox. I grabbed some of the leftover salad from yesterday and carried it back to the living room table. As I ate, I tried to relax, but the letter’s contents kept drifting back to the front of my mind.

This was not good. I mean, I did have a couple smart students in the class, but the grades of the rest were just not going to be up to snuff for the inspector. Finally, I couldn’t take it and got up to check my calendar. “26, 27, 28 days. Damn.”

My foul mood did get a little bit better as I spotted my note for tomorrow, though the onset of nervous fluttering in my stomach didn’t help. After the Crusaders’ attempt to set me up with Big Macintosh for Hearts and Hooves Day, we’d awkwardly avoided each other for weeks. Finally, he caught me in the market and asked if I’d be willing to give it another try. This time without dangerous alchemical drinks. It’d taken me a little thought on it, but I’d decided to give it a shot. All the times we’d spoken for parent-teacher conferences, or Family Appreciation Days, he’d seemed nice enough. And of course the gossip flying about the market had admittedly lent some interest. In any case, we’d decided on something simple, a dinner at a nice little restaurant just off Main Street. I’d heard from Twilight that their salads were absolutely wonderful.

I decided to unwind for a bit, and grabbed one of my nicer bottles from the wine cabinet. Especially after a long day of classes, I enjoyed a glass or two alongside a good book. I’d just gotten the latest Modus Operandi crime story, and had been looking forward to starting it all week. I trotted back into my living room, put the bottle on the table, sat down and opened the book to the first page.

I don’t remember how long I’d been reading, but I’d just gotten to where they were preparing to arrest the first suspect, and was giving thought to just dozing off on the couch, when I heard somepony knocking on the door. I scowled, yawned and set the book down. I walked across the room, and took a second to make sure I at least wouldn’t be scowling at whoever was there. I pulled the door open to see a very distraught Cloud Kicker standing there, and was about to ask what had her so worked up when she uttered a single, disastrous sentence

“I got tricked into foalsitting the Cutie Mark Crusaders.”

Well, that pretty much explained it all, actually. With a sigh, I nodded and started to follow her toward her house. With any luck, it would simply be sorting out whatever trouble the girls had gotten themselves into this time, and then I could go back home and get some sleep.

Oh who was I kidding. In case it wasn’t obvious, I didn’t do so well with being dragged out of my house to deal with the Crusaders in the middle of the night. I’m normally nowhere near this grouchy.

I glanced over at Cloud Kicker as we walked. I’d known of the pony’s penchant for promiscuity for some time before I’d actually met her at a town social function. Needless to say, I’d not been particularly pleased with her behavior. Although, the second or third sentence out of her mouth being about sex would have put almost anypony off. After the social, I’d been propositioned by the mare on more than one occasion. I’d always firmly rejected her, though to be honest I had been a little flattered. Everypony likes being told they’re pretty, even if it’s by the town nymphomaniac. Even my pointed assurances that I wasn’t interested in mares like that had only stopped her for about five seconds. Eventually, it just became easier to shrug it off and just get on with whatever she’d interrupted.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too far of a walk to her home, though I did allow myself a small flicker of hope at the sight of the house not on fire. Cloud Kicker hurried to the door and pulled it open, and I just stared.

It was far worse than I’d thought. Both the kitchen and the living room could be seen from the front door, a simple counter serving as the divide. Sweetie Belle was beaming at us from the kitchen, something beyond monstrous bubbling on the stovetop behind her. Dinky was standing nearby, a look of relief on her face and a discarded fire extinguisher on the floor. The grey foam had covered almost everything in the vicinity of the stove in a thick layer of sludge (at least I hoped it was just the foam, it could have been more of Sweetie’s infamous cooking).

And the living room fared no better, as I could see Applebloom, Scootaloo, and Alula in the middle of a brawl, shouting something about their sisters, or idol in Scootaloo’s case. However, it was Blossomforth, swaying drunkenly on her hooves with a broad smile on her face, slurring out something about a “practical demonstration” that was decidedly over the line for young fillies to hear that brought the whole mess together. A glass of what looked like lemonade was held in one hoof, though I was willing to bet my salary that it had more than that in it.

“Mah sister would totally beat Rainbow!” Apple Bloom hollered as she tugged on Scootaloo’s mane, keeping herself on top so the pegasus couldn’t get free.

“You take that back!” Scootaloo struggled, her wings buzzing.

“You’re both wrong! Kicky’d totally kick both their flanks!” Alula screamed as she leaped onto the pony pile.

“Hey girlsh!,” Blossomforth cried out excitedly, taking another swig from the glass, “Cloud Kicker’sh back! Now I can show you what I wash talkin’ about.”

I looked at Cloud Kicker in disbelief, then back to the utter anarchy, then again at Cloud Kicker. “How did this happen?” Realizing exactly which fillies were involved, I sighed and facehoofed. “Oh right, it’s them. I've got experience dealing with the girls – can you take Blossomforth?"

Her smile growing wider and decidedly more inappropriate, Blossom immediately let out a loud cry of “YESH CLOUD KICKER, TAKE ME! TAKE ME NOW!”

Facehoofing again, I took a breath to remind myself why I was here. “Girls? We’re going to let Miss Cloud Kicker take care of Miss Blossomforth, while we move the sleepover to my place for the night.”

Only Sweetie Belle and Dinky heard me, the others still in the throes of their fight. “But Miss Blossomforth said that we were gonna learn about the “facts of life”, and something about “banging”, though Rarity always yells at me when I bang things,” Sweetie Belle said confusedly.

Oh, Cloud Kicker definitely owed me for this. “Maybe another time, Sweetie. For now, why don’t you and Dinky get your things, I’ll get the others.”

I waded into the brawl and managed to separate the three with only a couple bruises and a small bite on my leg from Scootaloo. After I assured them it was alright, and that I wouldn’t tell their parents, I ushered all five of the girls out the door. As the door closed behind us, more of Blossomforth’s drunken ramblings reminded me pointedly of why I avoided heavy drinking.

“So, Miss Cheerilee, what did Miss Blossomforth mean when she said all tha’ stuff about tha’ facts of life?” Applebloom asked, tugging at her tangled mane.

“Yeah, I remember my parents mentioning something about it when I was just a little filly and Rarity was first moving out,” Sweetie Belle chimed in. “They sent me to my room though before I could hear what it was.”

I wracked my brain for a way to explain it, but the girls were already off, chattering amongst themselves. At least they were still all moving in the right direction.

“Maybe it’s ummm...” Dinky half-closed her eyes in thought. “Maybe it’s like some super secret grown-ups only thing. I mean, I remember Mommy talking to Sparkler about something a little while ago, and it sounded like grownup stuff, but she won’t tell me what it was.”

“Is that true, Miss Cheerilee?” Scootaloo asked suddenly.

I blinked, suddenly seeing a possible way out. “Yes! Of course, and that’s why we don’t want to tell fillies and colts until we’re sure they’re ready.”

The fillies thought this over in silence for a few seconds, before Scootaloo tilted her head. “But why not?”

I closed my eyes for a second and took a deep breath to calm myself. I may have more practice with it, but no adult likes to hear the infamous “Why?” After some thought, I decided to go with the answer my parents gave me and opened my eyes. "There are things, my dears, that are for children, and things that are for grown ups. Someday, and trust me, it will be all too soon, you'll be old enough to find out. But for tonight, enjoy your slumber party, as fillies, and save the adult stuff for the proper time, okay?"

Scootaloo frowned, but seemed to accept it. However, like clockwork, as I started to relax, Applebloom spoke up. “So, Miss Cheerilee, what did Miss Blossomforth mean when she was talkin’ to Miss Cloud Kicker about showin’ us a practical use for her swords?”

Alula frowned. “I always thought ya fought with them like normal. But Kicky always gets mad at me when I find her toy box.”

I shuddered despite myself. “Well, like I said, there are some things for adults to know-”

“I don’ think those were swords, swords are supposed to be hard and made of metal, aren’t they? Your sister’s were all made of that weird rubbery stuff,” Applebloom said, her eyebrows narrowed in thought.

“Maybe they were training swords, what do you think, Miss Cheerilee?”

Dear Princesses, just kill me now. Thankfully, my front door decided to intervene and make an appearance. “Well, here we are girls, how about we try and get some sleep?”

“But we’re not even tired yet!” The Crusaders protested. Alula and Dinky nodded in agreement as I opened the door and ushered them all inside. Making sure to secure my wine bottle out of their reach, I stifled a smile as I caught them staring at my bookshelves.

“Wow Ms. Cheerilee, you got a lot of books,” Dinky said quietly.

“Why thank you Dinky.” As I looked over my collection, I suddenly got an idea. “How about I help you all with some nice advance studying? The next section we’re going to cover is a little tough.”

Dinky and Sweetie seemed receptive to the idea, but the identical looks of skepticism that Applebloom, Scootaloo and Alula gave me shot down any chance of that offer working. “Well, maybe I could read you a story really quick?”

They all brightened at that, and I trotted over to my bookshelf. “Alright then, let’s see, I have-”

“Read us an action story!” Scootaloo and Applebloom shouted at once.

“No, we want a mystery!” Dinky and Alula replied eagerly.

Sweetie Belle blushed, giggling. “I want a romance...”

The five all glanced at each other, and after a second’s preparation of shifty glares, were embroiled in another shouting match in the middle of my living room. So much for calming them all down. In a mild frenzy, I scoured my shelves for something that might let me satisfy all their desires at once. No, no, maybe, no, aha! I seized the last title on the shelf and turned around to the arguing fillies, holding it up triumphantly. “How about... Young Daring Doo and the Hounds of Ponyville?”

The fillies all froze and turned their eyes to look up at the book.

“No way, I’ve only seen that book once, in Twilight’s library!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “And she never lets me check it out!”

I nodded. “Well, this book didn’t have a whole lot of copies made. I managed to get one reserved before they sold out. Now, if you want me to read it, let’s get you all settled in.” I helped them all get out their sleeping bags/cushions, and once I was sure they were at least tucked in, I pulled my couch around and settled down, putting my book aside for the moment. Turning to the first page, I cleared my throat.

“Young Daring Doo and the Hounds of Ponyville. Chapter One: A Howling at Midnight. This was it. The day she'd been preparing for for years, dreading from the moment she unearthed the first clue. She paused a moment to wipe away a bead of sweat, her still-healing wing twinging in protest. The greatest foe she had come across in her career lay just around the corner, poised and ready to attack at the first sign of weakness. She willed away the burning lead in her stomach, swallowed the bile that tinged her throat. With one final step, she plunged into the most horrifying situation her career had yet brought her to...” I paused for dramatic effect, grinning as the fillies’ eyes steadily widened, “freshmen lecture.”

“What?” Scootaloo shouted. “That’s so lame. Nopony’s scared of something dumb like that!”

I involuntarily shuddered a little. “You’d be surprised.” I still remembered that first day of class, those three innocent faces, entirely unaware of the terrors they’d unleash. “You’d really be surprised.” I didn’t realize I’d started staring into space until Dinky tugged on my leg. “Oh, right. Sorry girls.” I turned back to the book. “Where were we?”

I continued reading the tale, the fillies steadily growing sleepier as it wound on. I’d just gotten to the part where Daring had escaped the attack on the university by Ahuizotl and his feline minions, when I heard the chorus of snores I’d been hoping for. Closing the book, I stifled a yawn of my own as I carefully climbed off the couch. Putting the book back, I turned out the lights and trotted into my bedroom, closing the door behind me. Not a bad night, all things considered. At least the Crusaders had behaved themselves. Just to be safe, I rapped a hoof on the bedpost as I climbed under the sheets. No sense in tempting fate, after all. Shifting a bit to adjust, I sighed happily as I closed my eyes.


I stretched, thoroughly enjoying the warmth of my sheets, and yawned as I opened my eyes. The night had passed by uneventfully, which, after my brain finished catching up with the rest of me, registered as a potential problem. Compounding the problem was the utter silence from the rest of my house. Tossing the sheets off, I rolled out of bed and made for the door, and that’s when the smell hit me. The overpowering odor of rotten fish and burning garbage. Feeling panic rising in my chest, I threw the door open and entered the living room.

I was dimly aware of my rump hitting the floor as I beheld the chaos that had befallen my home. Paperwork I’d made sure was put away had been dragged back out, and was now scattered everywhere. Scootaloo, Applebloom, and Alula were all cowering in the farthest corner of the room from the kitchen, and I felt like joining them when I saw what had found its way in.

Dinky was rocking back and forth, wrapped around my fire extinguisher like it was a security blanket, aiming the nozzle at the open door of my oven. The interior was filled with the foam, and I could only imagine what kind of horror dwelled within.

“Good morning, Miss Cheerilee!” Sweetie Belle chirped. “I wanted to make you breakfast for letting us stay the night!”