Charity begins

27th February 2004 at 00:00
The rules of attraction have suddenly become complicated at St Brian's

We have an exotic addition to the staffroom: Tiziana Fausti, an unfeasibly attractive, twenty-something media studies supply teacher who has descended like a hormonal hurricane on the men of St Brian's. She's only been here a week but is already the darling of the drinking club at the 13 Horseshoes.

Tiziana, who apparently is descended from Genovese aristocrats, arrived via the same supply agency that gave us Mick and Jason, the Antipodean brawlers, and Graham Love, the sexually psychotic predator who stalked the pupils, staff and corridors of St Brian's for the duration of the autumn term.

When I mention Graham to Tiziana, she smiles. Not only does she know him, but he is one of her referees and is writing the screenplay for her new film. This is not good. Somehow I don't think Tiziana will be joining Anna Hatch in the St Brian's sisterhood.

It's Friday night and the mood in the Horseshoes is uneasy. I'm sitting with Anna, Sandy McSniff, my mentor, and my fellow NQT Brenda Gache. At the next table are Tiziana and the alpha males of the staffroom, led inevitably by Orlando Jones, head of drama and lechery. Tiziana is talking loudly about her film project (a "splatter pastiche" called Zombie High School Holocaust), her friends at the ICA and why pornography is a progressive art form - "as long as it's just consenting adults". There is much nodding and murmured agreement from blokes who are eager to consent to anything this woman might suggest. The sexually charged atmosphere goes nuclear when Tiziana announces that "all my friends call me Titz".

Anna is furious, but Sandy finds the whole thing fascinating - from a psychoanalytical point of view. "RD Laing would love this. She's hypomanic, you know. Absolute classic." Anna's diagnosis is more blunt: "For God's sake Sandy, the woman's a bloody tart!" I try to mediate: - "well, she's different, I'll say that" - but my cowardly neutrality draws contemptuous glares from all sides.

Tiziana's approach in the classroom is certainly different. In her first week she "deconstructed" rap music with Year 10, an exercise that involved the kids sitting round listening to 50 Cent CDs while their teacher demonstrated the art of booty dancing. She also delighted 9C by devoting an entire lesson to text messaging, which not only broke the school code on mobile phones, but has probably set the literacy drive back decades. Then there was the AS media lesson on censorship and cultural relativism that explored the link between high school massacres and the Harry Potter films.

Things are turning nasty in the Horseshoes, where Anna Hatch has had enough of Tiziana's theories, or her "misogynistic apologism" as Anna puts it. Tiziana rises to her feet, swigging back her champagne. "Tiziana Fausti apologises to no one, my darling! I'd love to stay and chat but I'm off clubbing with Year 13." She nods at the clothes hooks and one of the men scuttles off to fetch her Gucci coat. I don't know whether I love her or hate her. She catches my ambivalent gaze and asks: "Do you want to come, Charity?" I hesitate, aware that Anna Hatch has me fixed in her gaze. But before I can answer, Tiziana has given my Next trouser suit the once-over and reconsidered. "Maybe next time."

Next week: The workload agreement

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