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Another View - Have you met Binky? He is the menace lurking within us all

Comment: Stephen Jones

Comment: Stephen Jones

Binky first made himself manifest to me in a cartoon strip. An acid- voiced, malicious clown, Binky represents that dark part that lives inside all of us. Most of the time we keep our inner Binky down. But every now and again he comes bubbling up to the surface.

In the cartoon, three voices are giving a child advice about what to wear in the rain. The voice of Mum says: "Wear your wellingtons or you will get your feet wet." The voice of reason says: "There are lots of puddles out there so best to wear the wellingtons." Then the voice of Binky speaks: "Why not just toss the wellingtons out the freakin' window!"

Teachers in particular understand the voice of Binky because we spend so much of our time being nice to people. And it was when I was being particularly nice that he last spoke to me.

A group of prospective students had come in for interview and my PR gland had gone into overdrive. "Come on in, have a seat, make yourselves comfortable. Let me tell you all about the range of courses we have available. In a minute I will be passing among you with the sweet trolley," I said.

One by one the students told me their names. "Thank you," I said. "What a nice name". The last of them was Scott. Then Binky spoke. "What's it like to be named after a toilet roll?" Binky said. "I expect you have got a sister called Andrex and a brother named Jeyes."

The time before that I was in a tutorial. A student was having problems getting her work done. To me it sounded like a classic case of fear of failure. "In my head it sounds brilliant," she said, "but on the page it looks horrible. I sometimes think I'm totally worthless." Quick as a flash Binky replied: "Has it ever occurred to you that you think like that because you are worthless?"

Binky's voice, of course, can never be heard in public. At least, he can never be let loose on the punters. The only place he can really get a hearing is in the staffroom. Here you are among friends. People who understand.

It is not that we are nasty people underneath who struggle to present a nice face to the world. Actually it is quite the opposite. We really do like our students. Even the ones who drive us crazy.

It is just that there are times when you need a release, a safety valve. It is like carnival time in your brain; or one of those wild festivals where the Lord of Misrule is given his head. For a brief period the normal order is turned upside down. Good becomes bad and bad becomes good. Then, when you wake up in the morning, everything goes back to normal.

Of course Binky doesn't only pop up when you are with students. He is particularly good at showing his face when you are stuck in one of those three-hour training sessions that you have been told you absolutely MUST attend. Some new legislation has been passed about health and safety or confidentiality or how to prevent students from sticking pencils up their bottoms.

You sit through the first hour, and the second, then you look at your watch and see that only 20 minutes have passed. At this point Binky speaks. "You have a brain," he says. "You can read. Tell them to put it on a side of A4, give you a cuppa and let you eff off home."

Sometimes, too, Binky deals with actions rather than words. There is a story about Binky and a mobile phone that I suspect isn't true, but that I really wish was. It has become a sort of urban myth among teachers. A student's phone keeps interrupting a lesson, which is taking place high up on the seventh floor. "If it goes off again," says the harassed lecturer, "you will be sorry." "Oh yeah?" says the student. The phone rings. The teacher snatches it from the student, then dangles it out of the window. As he lets the object go you could hear a pin drop. Or a mobile phone.

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