Tea with Teachers aims to bridge “student-teacher gap”

Second season to premier next Tuesday

Walking into the UA office, it was quite surprising to witness the small and closed setting where the interview with Prof. Eric Lander, conducted by Tea with Teachers, was scheduled to take place. There were two cushioned chairs facing each other in front of a table with tea and a tray of biscuits, and the promise of a peek into a rarely seen side of professors.

TwT started from an attempt by Sina Booeshahghi ’17 to get to know teachers better before requesting recommendation letters for grad school. TwT has since then expanded into a project aimed at “bridging the student-teacher gap and making the professors more relatable,” according to Talia Khan ’20, the current interviewer and producer of the show after Booeshaghi left for Caltech.

The interviews usually last for around an hour, before they get reduced to the four-minute videos which are posted online.

“Hearing Professor [Bob] Langer talk about his struggles as an undergrad shocked me but also gave me a feeling of hope. That is what inspired me to be a part of this great team,” said Khan. Langer’s episode aired April as the first installment of season one.

Khan also related with Lander, who was interviewed Nov. 1, when he mentioned that he had not had any plans for the future after he finished his undergraduate degree. It made her realize that she is not alone in fearing the unknown after graduation.

By demystifying and humanising some of MIT’s professors, TwT hopes to encourage students to approach teachers more confidently and to be inspired by the fact that they too are normal people with non-academic passions, personal lives, failures and stories. They hope to convey the journey of professors as they overcame struggles to help students empathize with them and accept the fact that the path to success is not a highway and does have its ups and downs. This venture can also be extrapolated and viewed as an awareness initiative for students going through rough patches or uncertainties in life.

The opportunity to talk about topics other than academics or research in a light setting seemed to come as a welcome relief for both the professors and students. From daily life routines to aspirations, the professors candidly answer the questions posed.

TwT will premiere the first episode of its second season next Tuesday, Nov. 21, and plans to release new episodes every week on its YouTube channel.