One of the most difficult lessons for me is to remember to practice diligent self-care.
I’m the kind of person who likes to go, go, go—I’m energized by collaborating with teachers to think of ways to get kids excited about reading, by brainstorming with my colleagues about how we can give young readers more choices, and by exploring new stories that I think teachers and students will love.
I thrive when I’m productive. I start to feel low when I am not moving forward. But I am learning that sometimes the most productive thing I can do is take care of myself. And try to help make sure that others—my family, friends, and colleagues—take good care of themselves as well.
Over the past year and a half of this pandemic, I’ve especially had to find ways to prioritize my well-being. Sometimes it’s something as small as setting time aside to cozy up with a good book, making sure I don’t miss a workout, and sometimes (I mean, usually) it’s making sure to hang out with Sophie Rae. There is nothing like a one-year-old to put things into perspective.
I’ve discovered that to fuel my fighting spirit and to make sure I have the energy to pursue my passions, sometimes it’s best for me to take a breather. And it’s a lesson I’ve seen two athletic heroes emphasize this past summer as well.
Earlier this year, Naomi Osaka—the 23-year-old tennis champion—decided not to participate in postgame interviews at the French Open, citing that it was bad for her mental health. After she was fined $15,000, she didn’t back down—she backed out of the tournament all together, then wrote this amazing article for Time about her decision.
And then during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, gymnast Simone Biles, who has won multiple gold medals, decided to withdraw from competition when she knew that her mental health made competing dangerous.
And then when she was feeling better, she returned to competition and took bronze on the women’s balance beam.
“The fast pace and intrinsically fascinating disaster story will keep readers turning the pages.” —Kirkus Reviews
I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 is the eighth installment in the I Survived series. The story follows a boy named Ben whose veteran father recently passed away in a car accident. He and his mom and little brother go to Shogahama, Japan, to visit their ojisan (or uncle) and see where his dad grew up.
Something I really appreciate about Lauren’s I Survived series is that the stories aren’t just about physical survival—although that’s definitely a big part of it. They’re also about individuals who survive tragedies, how the disasters connect to their own personal challenges, and the power of mental resilience.
For example, in I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011, while Ben is fighting to survive on his own, he’s also grappling with grief over losing his dad. Over the course of the story, he learns that it’s all right to remember his dad—and feel sad about his loss—while embracing the lessons his dad taught him.
In the back of the book, Lauren includes a section called “A Triple Disaster,” where she shares the Japanese word gaman, which means “to be strong and patient even when something terrible is happening.”
Gaman reminds me of what 2013 MacArthur Fellow Angela Duckworth calls “grit,” which she considers to be a combination of passion and persistence. Gaman reminds me of what teachers call “resilience” in their social-emotional learning curriculum. Gaman reminds me of what so many teachers and students have been doing every day for the past year and a half while surviving this pandemic, and what Naomi and Simone both demonstrated when they decided that in order to pursue their passions, they needed to respect their bodies and regroup—not give up.
After reading I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011, my true friend and colleague David Vozar drew this illustration explaining what he took away from Lauren Tarshis’s gripping tale:
We spoke with many Scholastic Book Clubs teachers to ask them how they use I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 with their students, and fourth grade teacher Kris Clark speaks for many by identifying themes such as gaman, grit, and resilience, noting how Ben’s survival story hooks readers into wanting to learn more about natural disasters and history.
• The Book Boys share some interesting facts they learned while reading I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 in a class-friendly video
• Watch a teacher review with fourth grade teacher Kris Clark to discover why you might want to consider historical fiction to complement your nonfiction curriculum in Book Talks
• Read an interview with Lauren Tarshis to discover what inspires her I Survived books, what resilience means to her, and advice for anyone interested in writing historical fiction in Behind the Scenes
• Try Kris’s natural-disaster brochure idea in your own classroom with Cooked Up from a Book
I hope that I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 reminds you and your students of the many forms resilience takes; and that it speaks to you about how, oftentimes, the most powerful choice we can make is to be kind to ourselves—especially when we are facing challenges.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you practice self-care? What’s one strategy that you like to teach your students, or that you’d recommend to other teachers? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs