There is something about a flipchart that is very irritating. The irritation lies not in its structure - it is nothing more than an overgrown easel - but in the occasions where we find it.
Most teachers, liberated from the trench warfare of their classrooms for a day's training, are on the lookout for a decent lunch with a bit of useful knowledge to take home. The first glimpse of a flipchart spoils it all. In its natural habitat there will be a professional flipcharter by its side, armed with an A2 pad and some chunky felt-tips.
A flipcharter can do some fearful stuff. Words are plucked from the air and click, off comes the chunky felt-pen top, splat goes the word on the white paper as the flipcharter intones: "Yes. . . under-achievement . . . a good word!" Zip! She underlines it. Zip! And again. Any word. "Anything else? Anybody?" "Expectations," from a back-row beard. "Yes." Click! Splat! Zip and flip: the page goes rustling over.
The chunky pen is pocketed and the flipcharter, both hands now freed for gesturing, sneaks a glance at the wall clock. We see the glance; we hear the gears of the presentation changing. Flipcharter scans our faces, counting us in a rapid, smiley whisper.
We all know what's coming. We cross and uncross legs as we wait. "So, if you could just get in GROUPS for the next bit. About four or five to a group. OK?" No it's not OK, we all think but don't say, angry that a flipcharter is making us do what we didn't expect on a training day: boring old work.
Martin Reynolds is a head of English in St Helens