Dee Vanstone – Head of PSHE and Teacher of English

As we reach the end of the summer term, we are sad to be saying “Good Bye” to some of our wonderful staff and one of them is Mrs Vanstone, who is leaving Downsend after 14 years at the school.

We just couldn’t let Mrs Vanstone go without asking her about her time at Downsend and what are her plans for the future. Thank you so much for being an amazing and inspirational teacher, we wish you all the best and we will miss you.

 

My Time at Downsend:

 

I remember my first day at Downsend mainly for the friendliness, help and support of the staff. I also had a particularly difficult Year 6 class and wondered what on earth I had walked into! I have an earlier memory during the holidays before I started with the then Head of English. We were following Common Entrance then and I asked for his advice on what texts the Year 8s studied. He led me to a large cupboard with books piled floor to ceiling and said take your pick! It was a busy summer of reading!

Downsend has gone through enormous changes in the 14 years I have been teaching there – in ethos, educational focus and changes to buildings and staff etc. The changes have certainly kept me on my toes! The change of ethos from the rather generic ‘A school where children enjoy life’ to ‘Inspiring young minds’ where the incredibly broad and rich curriculum and enrichment program really does prepare the pupils for life beyond the classroom. I have worked under three Headmasters too. When I joined in 2007 Tony White, who had been at the school for 38 years and was the very fabric of the school was a kind, caring and very empathetic Head both towards staff and pupils. A year later he retired and was succeeded by Floyd Steadman who I remember fondly as an incredibly diverse and interesting man although the school did not move forwards a great deal in his time there. Fast forward to the present Head Ian Thorpe who I knew before he took up his post at the school. I have to say that his vision and determination to move the school forwards in so many ways have led to the success that the school is experiencing now. He will leave a great legacy. The move to a through-school, enforced by our local Senior Schools moving to 11+ entry has clearly been the right decision and I look forward to seeing the future successes of the school.

Needless-to-say I have so many happy memories at Downsend. Most of those memories are linked to residential trips. I led a couple of ski trips with the school, and these were great fun – seeing the children grow in confidence both on and off the slopes. There was also a great surfing trip to Cornwall, organised by the Head of Year 6 at the time, Rob Temlett, which was memorable for all the right reasons. That can’t be said of a later Year 6 residential which saw us walk an hour into the middle of woods in Oxfordshire in the pouring rain! This Bushcraft trip was eventful – not only did it rain from start to finish, have no showers on hand and I can no longer even look at a tent! I have a memory of trying to write my form tutor reports under a small awning with my laptop on top of a plastic box! This was a far cry from the lovely beach restaurant where I had last written them in Cornwall! Unfortunately, I am not a Bear Grylls, unlike Rob! My memory of taking a girl to hospital where it took an hour to even reach civilisation and then suffering the humiliation of the cleaner following us down the corridor cleaning up the trail of mud we had left will stay with me forever! I also have happy memories of drama productions I led during my first few years at the school. Again, the image of the boisterous Year 6 boys with splurge guns in ‘Bugsy Malone’ will stay with me. I have met several of those boys as they have grown into men and they, like me, have many happy memories of this production.

In terms of what I will miss at Downsend is the camaraderie, friendship and support from both my colleagues and pupils over the years. I will miss the buzz, fun and the classroom! I have also been lucky enough to be a form tutor for all years from 5 – 8 and the relationship you have with your tutees is special.

I always said I would leave when I fell out of love with teaching, but that is clearly never going to happen! But it is time for a new chapter in my life and I will still be doing some teaching offering private tuition to those who are in desperate need in order to catch up after the unprecedented times we have had over the last 18 months. Indeed, teaching Shakespeare virtually to Year 9s was a challenge I never thought I would face in my final years at school! In addition, I have never been one to sit on my laurels and I am doing a degree in counseling as my work in PSHE and specifically mental health over the past few years has made me realise that this is something so close to my heart. Becoming a student again at my age is going to be a challenge, but who knows, I might return to school with a different hat on!

Fun facts: I have written a biography about a WW1 soldier who was part of my growing up and am awaiting publishing of this.

: I can’t roll my tongue!

: Learning to play ‘spoons’ with my colleagues on trips away has been a very amusing highlight and I am now very proficient at the game!

 

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