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SteelEagle

The First Lesson (Open- TG for entry)

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To say that Dodge Junction Elementary was...a rather elementary facility would be an understatement. It had opened when the settlement was small and new and not at all up to the standards of other cities. A single building with a single classroom only a few subsidiary rooms to make up its bulk, it had never been much of a priority. As Dodge Junction became a major transport hub and its residents had easy access to academies and schools of high learning it fell even more by the wayside. It was used of course but only generally until ponies got their cutie mark or found employment in local business. Those who sought something more could simply take the unending trains to those places of education that suited them.

 

But the school still existed and students still learned there. It had fallen into a state of relative disrepair. It wasn't in danger of falling over but the floorboards were broken in places, the bookcases were more hope than reality. Many of the books were out of date and supplies were critically low. Indeed, the last class of students had done well considering how poor the situation was. But it was clear to all involved that the city needed something more and that had to start with leadership and superior quality of teaching. Even the single teacher who called this place work knew he was no longer up to the task- being an ancient stallion certainly didn't help him keep up to the whippersnappers.

 

And so they searched for a teacher who could come in and help teach the young ones of Dodge Junction effectively and maybe do something for the building itself. Sadly, not many teachers looked at a small western town known for farming and transportation and thought it was something they wanted to be involved in. But after a nice, long search they found a teacher from Ponyville looking for a change of pace not too long before the school year was set to start. It was part of an exchange program- though he was too old to really travel and it was more of a loan, with Baltimare providing an extra teacher heading to Ponyville. Princess Twilight was pushing this national exchange program; hopefully it worked for the former frontier town.

 

While he set about dusting and doing some basic cleaning the day before she was set to arrive, the teacher was given free travel and a nice budget with which to start the year off with. And with a nice little class coming in this year she would need it.
The stallion took one last look at the building and took a deep breath, walking away with a small suitcase of old materials away. And with that the building was silent...until the teacher and her pupils showed up, anyway!

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Speaking of understatements, the first colt to arrive to the school seemed a little disappointed this morning. He'd gotten up early to explore a spot on the map he thought might be neat, only to get to that spot and find out there was nothing there but open desert and a bush. It hadn't been a good bush either, and would've been a terrible landmark with as small and sickly as it had looked. He'd feel sorry for the poor thing and given it his spare water before flying off.

 

And now he was here. At school. A couple hours early, and without much to do but shuffle into his desk (it had been assigned to him a couple years ago when he first came to the school house and hadn't been changed, so he figured it was his), and start comparing his map to the school's. At least for about five minutes before he slips into a nap.

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It all started with a royal decree.  No that wasn't right - it was more a royal proposal, nopony was obliged to participate.  Strictly volunteer, at least at the school district level.  Princess Twilight's Teach Exchange Program for the Benefit of Equestria and All Students Hence Within, that was the official and lengthy title of the proposal when Cheerilee first heard the idea from Mayor Mare at the last annual meeting of all Ponyville educators.

 

The idea was for one or more teachers spending a semester teaching at the general level at a school elsewhere in Equestria in hope of bringing a fresh cultural perspective to the students as well as broaden the cultural experience of the teachers.  Mayor Mare thought it was an excellent idea - the mayor, ever the politician, was eager to support almost any idea of Twilight's, given the princess having her home right in town.

 

When the mayor called for any of the teachers to consider joining, only Cheerilee raised her hoof to volunteer, and only after considerable debate in her mind over leaving Ponyville, even if only for a little while.  Still, the opportunity to explore and getting to know the culture of another part of Equestria appealed greatly to the mare, and Mayor Mare was more than gleeful that *somepony* finally said yes.  Thus, Cheerilee found herself on a train to Dodge Junction after a tearful farewell to her students and a lecture on being the best they can be for their substitute teacher from Baltimare.

 

Cheerilee stepped off the train after about a day of travel.  It was nice to be walking on all four again after having to sit for so long.  She had spent the entirety of the trip reading up on Dodge Junction, being too apprehensive to sleep at all. The town itself wasn't all that much different than Ponyville - small, but not too small, and rather quiet, at least when there are no festivals.  Sure was hotter and dryer though, it was a good thing then that she had on a wide brim straw hat with a cheery blossom sticking out of the side.

 

She quickly checked into her temporary new home, a medium sized apartment above the local saddle store in the center of town.  It wasn't luxurious, but it was comfortable and had all the amenities a single professional mare needed.  Cheerilee could have spent more time there unpacking, but what the schoolteacher really wanted to see was the building where she would work hard to help shape the minds of future stallions and mares, so as soon as she could, she trotted off to the oldest school in Dodge Junction, with a couple boxes of supplies bouncing on her back, straw hat on her head.

 

It didn't take more than a half hour to walk there, but when she arrived all Cheerilee could do is stare in awkward silence.  Was she in the wrong place? Cheerilee quickly scanned the map again, nope this was it!  The schoolhouse standing before her though... It was less rustic looking and more, well, dilapidated.  Maybe that was too strong of an adjective, it was better to say it needed some TLC.  A lot of TLC.
 

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Hazel Blossom checked and rechecked her saddlebag. The materials contained therein were likely of a somewhat more advanced nature than the stock at the school itself; Manehattan Academies had a habit of instilling in a student all the virtues of over-preparedness. She didn't think that the education in this town would match up but she had learned that Equestria's educational system cared little for books and much more for personal experience. That was something one could never be fully, properly prepared for. Few times did the need to know the answer to some astrological trivia come to the forefront, often did it seem that everything else that one could learn outside of academic concern from a school came up. Social graces! She could only hope that she would prove to this school everything that she had showed Cherry Jubilee in her time here, and that the way forward for the filly would be made clear. Failing that, it would be a good distraction from work!

Not that she was bad at it, mind you. Having come here recently as a favor to a friend to work on their behalf for Cherry Jubilee, she had found herself being quite the little barfilly. Of course in a town like Dodge Junction the local Saloon, which was owned by Cherry Jubilee, was more of a general eatery than anything else/ Still, the work demanded a certain degree of personality and service that she strived to achieve. If anything she was perhaps too good at it and was finding herself becoming a more favored member of staff. So much so that she had found her stay...prolonged, to put it mildly. And while certain arrangements were being hammered out by ponies of more advanced age and distinction, the school year approached. While she was no great lover of the academic arts by themselves she did enjoy the process of learning and the stability that came with school appealed to her in these...turbulent times.

So Cherry had signed her up for the school year and here Hazel was, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Good habits born of Manehattan high society and the demands of her various responsibilities ensured that she had gotten the right amount of sleep and had woken up early enough to take care of business. Like every morning she had taken great care to ensure that her mane and tail were just so. She was a filly who loved fashion and looking her best and the time she had been working as a barfilly allowed her to adapt such desires to the demands of a physical job. She wasn't looking out of place in the town as she trotted to school. She looked like a filly who had herself together, was prepared for anything. She looked like she belonged. And that was always what she had been looking for, after all. She even told herself that it was all true.

Sometimes a lie was worth the trust you place in it.

She approached the school, spotting first an older adult pony. There was some brief connection of memory to some time spent in Ponyville. She examined the cutie mark as she approached from behind. Was this- well, yes. It was...Miss Cheerilee? The name seemed vaguely correct. Hazel had spent some time with extended family in that town but hadn't spent long enough to attend school there. Funny how events conspire in such a manner. Nonetheless, the knowledge made her happy. She wasn't the only one who was looking for a change of pace, though Hazel liked to believe she had transitioned past the straw hat stage a little quicker.

Of course as she came upon the likely teacher for the semester her eyes drifted towards the 'school' in front of her. It looked...well, functional, at least. She had known plenty of ponies even back in Manehattan who would be concerned about the stability and safety and then nothing more, but she was firmly in the camp that appearances mattered a great deal. And this place appeared like a dump. A great big dump. “Well, I guess I know why they discussed holding literary discussions at the saloon,” she said with a grin, pointing towards a hole placed randomly in the wall, “I think that is over the library. Not the best way to get acquainted with the classics!” She said, facing her teacher and giving a polite cursty.

“The name is Hazel Blossom. What a pleasure to meet you! Might I hazard that you'll be our teacher for this splendid semester?” She laughed, “Well, I think it will certainly be a very interesting experience! Looks like it has seen better days, however...” she trailed off then shook her head as she trotted inside. “no matter! Time is precious and all that. Let me find my seat,” she looked around upon entering. Just as...well, nasty was wrong. But decidedly more dirty than she would have hoped for. Nonetheless she shrugged and found an open seat, using her tail to dust it up and settle herself. Other students were bound to arrive and then the day's schedule would be set. She didn't know what exactly they would be focusing on but she was excited to have this sense of normalcy.

Speaking of schedule- a colt was sleeping in class. How long? He had some sort of map laying about. Intriguing. Interesting. Exciting? Well, that was a bit too much. She'd stick with interesting for now. She'd also stick with not waking him up. She wasn't sure how he'd respond. More importantly, he still had a precious few moments to squeeze before his school year started. Who was she to rob him of that peace? And so she settled in and started to clean off her desk, trying to make sure that her dress- which was more or less her work outfit without a few of the unnecessary details- wasn't going to be the subject of undue damage right off the bat.

She knew it would be later of course. Fillies and colts were a tough business.

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Ponyville was nice and all, but it was great to be home again. Sassy's home town of Dodge Junction was a place with a particularly provocative mixture of cultures: A combination of modernized function and the frontier flavorings of towns like Appleoosa. Familiar scents from the city filled the little colt's nose until even he had to let out a little bellow of a sneeze from some of the dust on the wind. Oh, that's right he was supposed to be off to school!  It'd been too long since he'd seen that rickety old place. It was dirty, musty, and probably a year away from falling in on itself, but it had character! His ma and pa had met as little school ponies and even fallen in love in that schoolhouse too from what his parents had told him.

 

Sassy rounded the final corner to see the old schoolhouse. It was looking a bit more dilapidated than usual but still recognizable. The colt would have hugged this place if his forelegs were... well, considerably longer. With a deep breath, Sassy flung the door open and practically sung out the words: Good Morning! At the top of his lungs, then blinked as he noticed a pretty face he wasn't soon to forget at one of the desks: Hazel blossom. A flush threatened to spread over his muzzle, but he managed to subdue it with his usual mask of confidence. Hoping to play it cool, he waved a greeting in the directions of his aunt's protegee. His wave was more of a noodly flail of his hoof from his abundance of energy, so however it came across: Cool was not something you could call it.

 

When he took a look to teacher's desk he noticed something weird: It was empty. Was the last teacher dismissed? The rough mare with one eye and the gravely voice, aw... She was so fun! He couldn't really make the time to be broken up about it though as he had to greet this nice looking adult mare with the pretty straw hat. "G'mornin, Ma'am! Are you the new teacher? A new aide, Either way it's great ta meet ya! Lemme be the first ta welcome ya'll ta the best dang school house in DODGE JUNCTION!" He reared back in glee as he hollered out his hometown's name. The schoolhouse itself punctuating his statement as a board from the ceiling fell down behind him. 

 

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Sweetbreeze was having a good nap, and a nice dream. He was flying over the cherry orchards, only they never stopped. He could see the trees for as far as the eye could see in every direction but back. That way was the open desert, and he turned toward it until it was on his left and the orchard on his right, and he was flying the line between them and a library full of maps. The sun was high in the sky, and looked like a compa-GOOD MORNING!

 

Sweetbreeze jumped out of his seat in a panic, knocking a new hole in the roof as he crashed into it. Thankfully the floor over his desk didn't have anything in that spot. Unfortunately, his desk did, and his poor map was pulverized when he landed on it. He rolled off the desk and surveyed the damage with a muttered "Consarnit." He sighed and swept the remnants of parchment into his hat and flew it over to the dustbin while he tried to assess the situation. Sassy was back, looked like, it'd been a coon's age since that colt had livened up the place. Then again, it'd been one since Sweet had, come to that.

 

Plus a new filly and a new teach, looked like. "Sass, it's the only school house in Dodge Junction. Other one's over in Appleoosa." the colt said, dumping his former map into the can. He dusted off his hat and held it over his chest while he bowed to both the mares in the room. "Name's Sweetbreeze, ma'am. This here's Sarsparilla Swirl. We call 'im Sassy, usually." He swept the hat in a broad arc (for his size) that ended with it canted back over his mane and apparently held in place by good will and Harmony in Equestria.

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