On the day before the last day of school, Mr. Tushman calls August to his office. He found out the names of the seventh graders from the camping trip, and teachers at Eddie's school discovered August's mangled hearing aids in his locker. August declines to press charges, insisting he's getting new hearing aids and joking that Eddie won't learn any lessons.
When August insists that Eddie wouldn't learn any lessons, it suggests that he doesn't yet believe the novel's guiding thesis that kindness is a choice—one that even Eddie could choose to make if he wanted to.
Mr. Tushman asks August to sit down and remarks that it's amazing that the school year is almost over. He mentions that August made the Honor Roll and also mentions that August has had hard times as well. August says that what happened on the camping trip wasn't all bad, as Amos, Henry, and Miles stood up for him. Mr. Tushman admits he knows about all the Julian stuff and tells August he wishes that he'd said something about the notes in his locker. He also confides in August that Julian won't be returning to Beecher Prep. August is shocked.
August demonstrates his optimism when he chooses to focus on the fact that Amos, Henry, and Miles stood up for him, rather than on the terrifying event that precipitated their kindness. This shows that this part of August's identity isn't likely to change, as it's withstood major tests over the course of the very challenging school year.
August notices that the pumpkin portrait that used to be behind Mr. Tushman's desk has since been replaced by August's self-portrait as a duck. Mr. Tushman explains that he loves it and asks why August chose to draw himself as a duck. August says simply he thinks he looks like a duck, surprising Mr. Tushman. Mr. Tushman shakes August's hand and sends him off.
When August refuses to assign any symbolism to his choice to represent himself as a duck, it suggests that he's learning to show himself as he sees himself.