Remembering Simon Greenall
I came to know Simon Greenall over the past 20 or so years and we would have conversations in corners at conferences, often about the whether coursebook teaching was better than lessons in which the content was elicited mostly from the students. He was always a calm, kind, thoughtful interlocutor who knew how to listen in depth to the other’s point of view. I miss him.
In HLT Year 10, Issue 4, August 2008 we had a written dialogue in which I tried to evaluate a TT course I had just given to master teachers from Hubei Province, China, and Simon with his in-depth knowledge of Chinese learning and teaching problems commented on my thoughts and feelings. This joint article we wrote shows you Simon at his deepest and his best. Let me quote the way Simon ended the dialogue between us:
“You may not always approve of what we, as textbook writers, do. But textbook writers, teacher trainers and teachers share the responsibility to China and Chinese ELT. It is a huge task because over 20% of teachers and learners of English are Chinese and it is going to keep most of us busy for the rest of our careers. Thanks and please keep up the good work.”
I miss you, gentle giant.
Although I knew Simon Greenall a little before, it was in my first year as President of IATEFL that I got to know him better. The outgoing President had had to step back a little for personal reasons and Simon kindly stepped in as Acting Vice President for a year. His knowledge and memory of all things IATEFL were detailed, clear and very helpful and he was extremely supportive and kind to me that year as I learned the ropes. A little later on, he was also an early and very generous supporter of The Fair List, UK, for example, giving a webinar with Susan Barduhn to help those thinking of giving their first plenary speech at a conference, and by helping to make our annual awards events go with a swing.
His informative and supportive comments and interventions in communications with the IATEFL family will be greatly missed.
He was kind, generous, thoughtful, courteous, in short, a real gentleman and I miss him.
Simon Greenall was someone whose successes everyone could understand and rejoice in. It is easy to be cynical about honours such as OBEs until the right person gets one. Simon was superb at what he did and good to others while doing it. As has been made clear in many other tributes, he used the means and the influence that came his way over a long and ever-developing career to ensure that other people benefited. Not only was he the prime mover in many very large-scale initiatives such as the IATEFL Wider Membership Scheme but he was mentor and teacher to individuals - aspiring writers and curriculum designers as well as teachers - in the work that he did internationally.
He was also the most delightful company, not just because he was funny and interesting but because he thought of others. I clearly remember our first meeting. This was Milan in the 1980s and he was straight off a plane and it was way past lunchtime. In those years Simon was at a relatively early stage in his career and was mostly active as a writer and materials designer. This was the first, I think, of a series of visits to Italy to present at seminars and conferences in connection with new course books. His winning combination of generosity of spirit, unfussy warmth and wit became quickly apparent in a very welcome way when our host at the restaurant ordered a very large, very grand, fish for us to share for lunch and then descended into a spiral of embarrassment. Unfortunately, so vast was this fish that it took more than an hour to cook and several of us began to feel faint. Though he, too, must have been ravenous as well as knackered after his journey, the guest of honour remained sunny-natured, put us all at our ease and conversed (and gossiped) so entertainingly that the time (nearly) flew until the baked feast finally made it to the table and we all fell upon it, slightly slavering.
I was very fortunate in getting to know Simon better, and then Jill when she joined him on some of his later visits to Italy. Once I was back in the UK, we continued to meet up and occasionally I worked on projects that one or other was involved with. It was always a delight to be with them and I learned a great deal professionally from both of them. I am sad that we met much less frequently in recent years because we were seldom in the same part of the country, were all even busier and there never seemed to be enough time. However, any time that I was in contact with Simon, I knew that I could rely on instant understanding of whatever it was I was on about (he was lightning-quick on the uptake) and could expect either some salutarily waspish comment (he was great at those) or some words of support and comfort (ditto).
Our last lengthy exchange was about the ‘History of IATEFL’ which I co-wrote with Richard Smith and which naturally covered Simon’s achievements as President in some detail. In his responses to our questioning, he was both helpful and fascinatingly frank. After its publication, Simon got in contact with generous comments but also typical insight and self-deprecation. He’d spotted the redacted bits, he said, but actually, he claimed, he had spent most of the time immersed in the Index, looking himself up. I knew he hadn’t, he knew he hadn’t but we both enjoyed thinking about who might have.
Simon is going to be missed in so many ways by so many people. I will miss him as a kind, generous-spirited person who nonetheless had a very sharp eye for what was false or just plain silly. Missing his skills, erudition and intelligence and all the further things he might have gone on to achieve for the profession goes without elaborating.
Simon and I started working together in the summer of 1981, and our writing partnership continued for many years, during which time he and Jill Florent met and married, had two sons, and moved to their lovely home in Oxford.
Simon was warm, witty, and remarkably creative – whether writing ELT materials or producing delicious meals – and I was incredibly lucky to have the chance to work with him. I was seeking a co-author for a new Heinemann FCE course when Jeremy Harrison at the University of Lyon suggested I ask Simon, also in Lyon at the time. Happily for me, Simon said 'yes', and that led to a plethora of joint writing projects and a lifelong friendship.
The photos show a particularly happy day: Simon at Buckingham Palace in November 1988, when we were joint winners (with Headway) of the ESU Duke of Edinburgh Award. Then the BBC took us to the Ritz for champagne!
I will miss Simon’s kindness, and his readiness to pause whatever he was doing and give time to people. He was a wonderful presence in any group, always attentive, sometimes offering incisive summaries of a thorny issue, sometimes seeing a way forward that had escaped us, sometimes easing a moment of bafflement with insightful humour.
While president of IATEFL Simon offered mentored me when I became the vice president, arranging for us to spend time together to share his experience of the job and prepare me for what I needed to do. His watchful and benign influence seemed to flow into the nooks and crannies of projects and teams of people working together, and I think many in the association benefitted from this one way or another.
We worked together on various projects. Ten years ago a number of us went to Palestine to work in Ramallah with the Ministry of Education and Macmillan on the second edition of English for Palestine. We spent some days observing classes and listening to the voices and needs of teachers in schools in towns and villages. Simon was deeply touched by the energy and enthusiasm of the teachers and head teachers, and looked for every way to offer support that was sincere and felt, however small, and make to a worthwhile contribution through the new edition of the course. Simon would be so pleased to know that the Palestinian Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (PATEFL) has just become an affiliate of IATEFL
In the last few years it has been a pleasure to work alongside Simon as a trustee on the board of International House London which has benefitted from his breadth of understanding, his carefully considered and presented views and his humour.
Simon was unique; we will all miss him and cherish our memories of him.
Adrian Underhill - friend and colleague
My earliest memory of Simon is the name printed on the cover of "Reward Pre-Intermediate", the book that I used in my first teaching job, straight out of university. It came as quite a shock to be able to shahe His hand a few years later, when he entered a meeting room at the Warsaw office of Macmillan. He came to talk about a new writing project for Poland, and I was one of the aspiring young authors. I still have a very vivid recollection of that meeting, not least because He made everyone feel at ease, shared most generously the pearls of writing wisdom, and was as supporting as one could only hope one's first managing editor would be. Since then our paths crossed many times, mostly owing to various teacher traiing activities connected with the Polish projects that He was involved in. Recenly, I spoke with Him briefly at the 175 Anniversary Gala Dinner, hosted by Macmillan at IATEFL Brighton. He was as kind as ever, eager to find out about the work currenly in progess, but at the same time a touch subdued and nostalgic. I attributed the latter to the nature of the occasion, festive yet somewhat nostalgic. Could it be that at some level He felt this was to be one of the last public appearances that He would be destined to make ...? Rest in Peace, Kind Sir.
My most enduring memory of Simon Greenall dates from a morning in December 1996 (or perhaps it was in January 1997) at the time when he was IATEFL’s incoming Vice-President. It was some months after I’d applied unsuccessfully to be the editor of his planned ‘The Best of the SIGs’ compilation to be based on SIG Newsletter articles (later published as SIG Selections).
Simon did more for the IATEFL ‘brand’ than any other President, and although his Presidency was to begin at the following conference, he was already setting about rethinking the face of the Association and giving it a louder and more distinct voice. Amongst his many projects, and I suppose fairly low down on the list of things to be done, was turning the photocopied conference reports into what we now know as Selections, and he'd asked me to come to Oxford to talk to him about the possibility of my being the first editor. I was impressed. I was impressed by his broad vision. I was impressed by the ideas he’d already developed and the cogency with which he conveyed them. I was impressed by his genuine interest in any ideas I might have. I was impressed by his business-like manner, and especially his combination of efficiency and economy with human warmth. I was impressed by his house, and his office in particular – a model of the kind of self-organization that made me very envious indeed. I was impressed by the trust he appeared to put in me to come up with detailed proposals that would help to bring his vision to fruition, and I went away enthralled, and determined to send him a detailed proposal for the structure and organization of the project which I hoped he would find acceptable. And I enjoyed the simple but very tasty lunch he produced. Many, many colleagues in the profession will have their own particular memories of a person who made a really significant difference to the lives of others, both directly and indirectly, and who, through his legacy, continues to do so.
There will be a memorial event in London on Saturday 6th April, 2019 (the day after IATEFL ends) to celebrate Simon's life. This will be hosted by Macmillan Education. Further details will be shared in due course. Alan Maley has agreed to speak at the memorial event in April.
Michael Swan has agreed to write an obituary for ‘other lives’ in the Guardian newspaper and Simon’s college friend is writing an obituary for the Jesus College Record.
Remembrance Book on WeRemember
A remembrance book has been set up on We Remember where people may leave tributes to Simon. This will later be turned into an e-book of remembrance. If you would like to contribute, please follow this link:
Some glimpses of Simon’s work
Remembering Simon Greenall
EVE: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Sue Leather, Canada
The Welsh are NOT English
Mario Rinvolucri, UK