Thursday, October 28, 2010

What happened when teacher moved in?

A wayward schoolgirl gets the shock of her life when her mum hands over control of the family home to her teacher for a week to improve her behaviour. The experience was recorded for a BBC Three TV documentary as executive producer, Fiona O'Sullivan explains.

You could have heard a pin drop in the head teacher's office when Loretta Cook was told the news that her 29-year-old technology teacher, Hannah Dudley would be moving in.

There was a pause and then Loretta's response. "Does this mean you're going to see me without any makeup?" A funny knee-jerk response but one that completely summed up the boundary that Loretta's teacher was about to cross.

And for 14-year-old Loretta, being seen without makeup is a sore point indeed.

Start Quote

Loretta's mum, Karen

She's such a lovely, wonderful, beautiful girl... I feel like I've failed her”

End Quote Loretta's mum, Karen

Just two days earlier, mum had refused to give Loretta time for her beauty regime because she had been running late and at the school entrance, Loretta had refused to get out of the car.

The scuffle actually got physical as Mum tried to undo Loretta's seatbelt. "I'm not going in looking like this," she said. "I'm not going to school unless I've got my hair and make-up ready." Loretta ended up walking off the school grounds.

So, back to the head teacher's office.

Loretta was in shock and Mum in tears. "She's such a lovely, wonderful, beautiful girl and has such a fantastic sense of humour and she's just wasting herself," her tired mother Karen whimpered. "I feel like I've failed her."

Miss Dudley tried to explain to Loretta that Mum was at her wit's end and did not know how to control Loretta or what else to do.

Loretta's parents and the school had decided that by joining forces in this remarkable way, they might be able to get Loretta back on track and help her make the most of an education she could get a lot out of.

"Loretta is somebody I would say, is on the cusp of becoming quite a behavioural problem but isn't there yet and is, I think, salvageable for that reason," said the head teacher, Tracy Campbell. "She's somebody that deep down wants to do better than she is."

Driving home

Within minutes Miss Dudley was joining Loretta and mum on the drive home from school. Hannah Dudley would return to her own home overnight but for every waking hour, at school or at home, she would be part of Loretta's life.

Hannah Dudley had no experience of dealing with children or families outside a classroom. She certainly did not come with a tried and tested formula on how to sort Loretta out.

Hannah Dudley and Loretta share the family sofa Hannah Dudley and Loretta share the family sofa

"A lot of people have said that I'm maybe a bit crazy to take this on, maybe this is too big. Maybe it is but I'd rather give something a go and it not work than never have tried in the first place."

Hannah felt she needed to find out what was going on at home in order to see what might be causing Loretta's erratic disrespectful behaviour.