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Philosophy of Teaching

“In my class, my students are more than just a numeric grade. They are living human beings with complex emotions, boundless creativity, and unlimited potential.  Most of my effort is spent on developing positive relationships, nurturing a sense of belonging, and creating an environment worthy of risk-taking. Once those conditions are fully met, then learning can happen and we can create something truly amazing.”

I never planned on becoming a teacher. I just fell into the profession. Instead, I chose film and broadcasting. Shortly after covering the events of the Boston Bombing, I leaped at an opportunity to become an agent of positivity, a media arts teacher. It’s the decision that I would never regret.

My First “AHA!” Moment

I’ll never forget the first time I realized how powerful teaching could be. I taught a unit on short filmmaking and encouraged students to create a film that expressed their feelings or concern about a particular topic. 

We spent weeks developing ideas, strategies, and production plans. One student produced a short film sharing his love of New England, another student produced a short film dedicated to her father, and finally, one student created a short film about his late sister. The latter student made me realize that education should be focused more on developing the human being rather than pedagogy, assessment, and instruction.

I met this student while supervising detention. Yes. Detention.

I was curious about how he ended up in detention and asked. He told me he was a “bad kid.” I argued he was probably wrong with that assessment and offered to take my media art class. I suggested we could test his flawed kid theory out. He signed up two weeks later. 

A few months later, his sister passed away in a tragic car accident. In his senior year, he returned to my class and approached me with an idea. He wanted to produce a film dedicated to his sister. I couldn’t say no. It took him almost all year to complete the film. His film went on to win a New England Regional Student Emmy Award, was nominated for a National Student Emmy award, and placed fifth place at the 2016 Salem Film Festival. 

It turns out he wasn’t a bad kid at all.

Every Student Needs a Champion

On my first day in education, I was introduced to Rita Pierson. My entire approach has been informed by her TED Talk.

Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. 

Rita Pierson

It takes a ton of effort to care about your students’ well-being and success genuinely, but I believe it truly makes a difference. Far too many teachers disregard the humans in front of them. They value grades more than perseverance and compliance over creativity. They are hyperfocused on teaching students for a standardized test and use class score metrics to sign success.

I often think about the scenario of a child learning how to ride a bike. After nine tries, the child falls off the bike, but the child finally gets it on the tenth try. Many teachers would simply score that learning experience 10%, and F with the comment “more effort needed.” In the end, the child learned something and now has a new skill. Teachers should celebrate the nine attempts to get it rightfully. 

Teachers, we should be building our students up, not tearing them down.

In the Media Arts Studio

I prefer positive relationships over worksheets, lectures, and PowerPoint presentations. Most of my lessons are hands-on, project-based, often modeled personally, and offer student choice—the lessons pair technology with expression and creativity. I embrace mistakes but celebrate growth. Written self-reflections lead to improving past failures, and peer feedback drives success in my classroom.

Sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort level. Students will not always remember everything you taught them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

My students need to step out of their comfort level, to challenge the status quo, and challenge themselves fully. My classroom promotes empathy, appreciation, and inclusiveness.

Self Reflection

Finally, for me, the essential element of teaching is self-improvement. There is a reason why Apple has released 11 versions of their flagship iPhone. Each release has significant improvements. I often ask myself, “why didn’t they just stop at iPhone 1?” I view myself as Mr. Furtado 7.0. Each year I’ve continually performed stronger, improved instruction, and closed the weakness gaps.

I do not pretend to have all the solutions, but I will not stop until I continually get better. One method I use to improve my craft is student feedback which leads to critical self-reflection. During each term end, I provide students with a vital survey of my instruction and my habits. I need to see if I am doing something wrong or doing something detrimental that hinders learning, and then I use the data to correct issues. 

My students cannot become better versions of themselves if I am not willing to improve myself. I always tell my students their final project is not art. Instead, art is the process, the journey that one went to create the art. My instruction is an ever-changing process.

An empty desk sits in a classroom in Fairhaven, High School, Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

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