Showcase: Mario Passalacqua


In this edition of Showcase, Mario Passalacqua reflects on his role as a teacher following the March 11th earthquake and reminds us that there is more to teaching than lesson planning.


Mario Passalacqua

On March 11th, the Tohoku area was hit by a massive earthquake. The loss of life and property damage was enormous. Its aftershocks lasted for days and the threat of exposure to nuclear radiation was on everyone’s minds. For the first time in my 15 years living in Japan, I seriously thought about going back to Canada.

However, when my students’ mothers started to call and ask about lessons I could see that my school was more than just a classroom—it was an integral part of my students’ lives. I realized that the children needed an outlet for their stress and a way to bring a sense of normalcy back into their lives. When the children entered my school I could see the toll of the stress on their faces. I made it a point to reassure each student individually and focused on group activities to make them aware of the support around them. When the lessons were over, the children were smiling again and the mothers were glad that they too had a chance to relax.

We as teachers strive to teach each and every class with professionalism and plan each lesson carefully. However, being a teacher is more than that. Teachers are friends who encourage students when they are down and they reassure students when they are unsure of themselves. This experience has shown me that our students are expecting more from us than what is written in our lesson plans.

Mario Passalacqua owns and operates Tot’s Language Center in Sendai City. He specializes in teaching young learners and his research interests include vocabulary acquisition and code-switching.

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