“I don’t know is not an answer, Phillip. This is unacceptable work. You know that you are supposed to do your homework in pencil. I just want to know why you chose to do it in crayon.”
Phillip shrugged again and sniffed his wet nose loudly. “I…”
“What was that?”
He sat silent trying to control his tears. Breathing hard through his nose, he tried to relax his jaw muscles. Mr. Atwood leaned back on the desk and crossed his arms. He looked straight into Phillip’s eyes to let him know he was expecting an answer.
“I… I didn’t have a pencil.” Phillip croaked. Mr. Atwood clicked his tongue and sighed.
“Phillip, you have plenty of time through out the day to do your homework. Everyone else in your class can get their homework done, and you’re are an exceptionally bright boy.” He emphasized the exceptionally by drawing out the syllables and jutting his chin as he said it. “You’re very bright, but you don’t apply yourself. You could be a straight A student if you just tried. But you don’t try. You don’t try and you continually turn in work that is…” He sought for the word. “…disappointing.”
Phillip had managed to sublimate the crying and now sat breathing deeply and staring at Mr. Atwood’s knees.
“Phillip, I’m going to have to call your parents.” He waited for a reaction from the boy but didn’t get one. “Are you going to do this again?”
Phillip shook his head.
“Good.” The principal put the paper back on his desk and considered the boy. “Phillip, is everything okay at home?”
Phillip nodded quickly.
“You know you can talk to me, Phillip, I’m your friend.” Phillip looked quizzically at the Principal and then back at the ground. “Phillip, I’m going to have you start talking to Ms. Spellman. It’ll be during class time so you won’t have to stay late. Is that okay?”
The boy didn’t respond.
“Okay, you can go back to your class now.”
Phillip slid from the chair and walked out of the office and up to the counter. He took a hall pass from one of the ladies and left the office.