The 16 year old boys sauntered into class like proud penguins, their legs bound together by jeans worn low, holding them up by walking with a wide stance. Their hats were off to one side, matching their crooked smiles, barely visible from under dark hoods pulled low. I smiled to myself and considered the irony – a look meant to make one look “cool and intimidating” actually looked quite comical.
“Please take your hats off boys.”
They grunted in response, making no eye contact and moving to the back of the room, removed their hoods and hats. I began class by taking attendance and introducing myself. I had the substitute teacher routine down to an art. As I explained the assignment, my eyes scanned the room and stopped on the two “penguin thugs”. They were whispering back and forth, looking up at me occasionally and I knew the conversation even before reading it on their lips.
“Is she fat, or pregnant?” one whispered to the other.
“I don’t know man.”
“I’m pregnant” I piped in, full volume from the front of the class. The other students looked up confused and followed my gaze back to the two boys in the back corner. I smiled casually and said, “Don’t worry, I get it all the time”.
Their faces were red and plastered with awkward smiles. They looked nervously at each other and again, I held back a laugh. In that moment they looked just like the little boys they were. Yes, they were in grade 11 and they wore their pants so low the croch grazed their calves. And yes, they could look a little scary if you passed them outside on a dark night in a back alley, their hoods pulled low.
But they were just big kids.