My guest today is Dr. Hal Urban, award-winning teacher, author, national and international speaker.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Hal. I just read and really enjoyed Positive Words, Powerful Results [Touchstone, 2004]. Why did you write it?
Hal Urban: My first book (LIFE'S GREATEST LESSONS) has a chapter called "Kind words cost little, but accomplish much." It was the only chapter of the 20 that I wanted to write more about, but the book was originally written for kids (it was called 20 THINGS I WANT MY KIDS TO KNOW), and I was trying to keep all the chapters ten pages or less. After the success of that first book, Simon & Schuster wanted me to write two more. I knew right away what the first one would be - about the power of words. Most people take words for granted, not always aware of the enormous power they have for both good and bad. We've all had experiences with both types. I thought there would be a lot of books about the power of words out there, but there were few. So I gave it a shot.
JB: Where did you teach and who were your students, Hal? And what experience with the power of words did you already have with them as you embarked on this book?
HU: I taught at San Carlos HS and Woodside HS (same district - south of San Francisco) from 1966-2001. I also taught adults at the University of San Francisco from 1965-2001. I was always aware of how much kids (and adults) hurt each other with careless and reckless words. My mom (dedicated the book to her) was one of those people who always had a kind word for everyone. Her influence was significant. Also, early in my career, I was influenced greatly by a friend/colleague at San Carlos High. His name was Tim Hansel. His motto was "Always have something good to say." He lived by it, and he was always a joy to be around. It was about that time (early '70s) that I started helping my students become more aware of the power of their words, and to encourage them to use more AFFIRMING words. In other words, build people up instead of tearing them down. Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can tear down. Words can lift up.
JB: As all of us parents know, it's a far cry from simply pointing something out to your child, however forcefully, and having that child internalize and then "own" it. How did you get through to your students, including the adults?