Last year, an exciting new project started at MIT—Tea with Teachers, a YouTube series meant to bridge the student-faculty divide by showing professors’ interactions with students in an informal setting. TwT videos are not about professors’ research and academic careers. Instead, they highlight who the professors are outside of MIT. And the videos are truly fascinating. Watch them below!
I wanted to blog about TwT for a while, and finally got the opportunity to connect with the team when my neighbor, Tho T. '19, joined it. The people in TwT have been wonderful during the process of preparing this post, contributing their time and voices and including me in their group’s work. This blog is about the Tea with Teachers series and the experience of being on the TwT team, in the words of the Tea with Teachers creators. If you would like to be involved in the process and meet some of the world's best professors over tea, see information on open team positions at the bottom of the page.
Everything written below the line was submitted by members of the TwT team.
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIJXccw9VkEXq7bNNoKlqvA. Like, comment, subscribe! We would love to hear your thoughts.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/teawteachers/
MISSION STATEMENT: The premise of this video series is to demystify and humanize professors, focusing not on research, classes, or academic life, but who the professor is as a person. We invite professors to ~1 hr interviews (over tea!), that we record, edit, and release on our Youtube and Facebook pages. We hope showing the everyday side of professors will help bridge student-faculty divides, and promote interactions.
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS ON THE FOUNDING OF TwT: I am half Iranian and I drink a lot of tea. One day I was having tea with a friend of mine and lamented on the fact that I did not really have close connections with professors for graduate school reference letters. I wished that "I could just sit down with a professor and have tea with them, to get to know their personal history and less so their academic history." I planned out a way to make this happened and reached out to T.S. ‘18 on the Undergraduate Council (UA) Special Projects Committee. We got some funding and the rest is history! - Sina B. '17
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH TwT VIDEOS:
- TwT videos are a great way to *really* get to know your professors. In our interviews we don't focus on academics and prestige; rather, we focus on their real lives and the stories they have to share.
- You get to see a side of your professor you wouldn't see otherwise. They have some pretty good stories! And they've all made mistakes and are like us in many ways.
- What we want most is for people to watch the videos and, because of them, interact with their professors more. Even if it's not a professor who we've interviewed, the hope is that the concept of TwT, in general, will show students that professors are not elusive, scary, haughty, or anything else of that sort - they are regular people, like all of us, who have families, lives, passions (both academic *and* non-academic), troubles, failures, and stories.
- When you see how goofy many of the professors actually are, hopefully you will be less hesitant to approach professors for anything from pset questions to extensions to help-seeking.
- The videos are funny and a great procrastination tool
STUDENT TESTIMONY ON THE MAGIC OF TwT: I watched the interview with Bob Langer and thought that the project was really amazing. When I heard Professor Langer talk about his struggles as an undergrad and about the fact that he didn't do well his first few semesters, I was shocked but also comforted; I thought, "maybe there's hope for me after all!!!" That one 4-minute video changed so much about the way that I perceived an amazingly accomplished and distinguished professor and the way I perceived myself. I saw how powerful the videos were and knew I wanted to be a part of the team. - Talia K. ‘20
TEA WITH TEACHERS TEAM PROFILES
Sina B. '17
- Position: Founder
- MIT life outside Tea with Teachers: I graduate in 2017 with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics (Courses 2 & 18). I was in the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the corporate relations director for xFair 2016, and member of MIT ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers]. I loved throwing tea parties in my fraternity, where we would all dress up and there’d be tea and nice music and lighting!
- Relationships with professors: I hold professors in extremely high regard; they lead students to push the boundaries of science and technology. As such, I was quite timid in getting to know them. But my experience with UROPs and TwT really changed my perceptions. I now feel more comfortable talking with professors and soliciting their advice. I am extremely grateful for all of the faculty with whom I have had lengthy discussions. They have aided me in getting to where I am today.
- Reasons to get involved with TwT: If you feel like you want to be part of a team that is really making a difference then I believe you will enjoy the TwT team. We are a focused team that gets work done in an effort to further our mission.
- The TwT experience: The biggest thing I learned from working with the team was the ability to let people perform in areas that they are the most competent in. While I understand video editing, Nicholas C. ‘19 is an incredible videographer and really knows the ins and outs about the technology. I am extremely proud of the team and I know that they will accomplish much moving forward!
- Position: The “mom of the team.” I remind the team what needs to get done over and over again. I also to a lot of random things, from selecting and inviting professors to scheduling to giving feedback on EVERYTHING to finding new recruits.
- MIT life outside Tea with Teachers: Course 1 - Systems Engineering. Lived in Israel, Taiwan, S. Korea, and the U.S. (idk where I'm from). Dorm: used to be iHouse, which is where I identify with, now Tang. Extracurriculars: CASE [Class Awareness Support and Equality] and the UA [Undergraduate Association] are the main ones right now. I was the Chair of the UA Special Projects committee, and I wanted to support other projects that students had, by connecting them to people and trying to work with them to secure funding. Fun fact: I don't like tea.
- Relationships with professors: I've been really lucky and have had amazing professors. I was in ESG [Experimental Study Group], where classes are small and you know your instructors on a first-name basis. Course 1 is the same. I have no problem going to my professors with any issues, and they have always worked with me one-on-one to resolve it. I used to be Course 5 [Chemistry], and the larger classes definitely made professors seem more distant.
- Favorite TwT story: There was that time Nicholas C. ‘19, Sina B. ‘17, and I spent ~8 hours together filming the promo video. Sina's favorite sentence is "perfection is the enemy of good enough," yet how many ways can you prepare tea? Is it really THAT complicated? Does it HAVE to be a certain type of tea?
Nicholas C. '19
- Position: Lead filmmaker. I do the behind-the-scenes filming and editing that goes into making an episode. As the lead filmmaker for TwT, I am responsible for everything from assembling the set and camera equipment to editing and color correcting in Davinci Resolve. I am also responsible for teaching new members of the video team how to do this process (shoutout to our newest member Tho!) [editor's note: double-shoutout to Tho - she's my neighbor]
- MIT life outside Tea with Teachers: I am a CMS [Comparative Media Studies] major, which is MIT's way of saying Film Production. I live in Chocolate City, which is a black male living community in one of the dorms, New House. In terms of extracurriculars, I'm involved with a Christian organization called Cru, I'm the chair of the Undergraduate Association Marketing Committee, and, of course, I do Tea with Teachers!
- Relationships with professors: My relationships with my professors and mentors are great. I know most of them on a first-name basis. Professors as a whole genuinely care about helping their students, and it is reflected in how they treat their students.
- Favorite TwT story: One of the professors that we interviewed for Season 2 used to be a competitive ballroom dancer, and he taught our interviewer how to dance on camera. Haha! It was hilarious!
- Reasons to get involved: I joined TwT because it sounded like a really cool project, and an excellent way to use my filmmaking skills to have a positive impact on the community. If you are interested in helping bridge the gap between professors and students, or if you are interested in filmmaking, you should definitely join TwT. We make a lot of tea-related puns on the TEAm (haha, see what I did there?) So if you like corny jokes, TwT will be Early Greyt for you! [editor’s note: can confirm that Nicholas was proud of this pun, and I respect that]
- The TwT experience: The work can be a challenge at time, but it is the type of challenge that encourages growth. Trimming down a 30-60 minute interview into a 4- to 5-minute supercut can be tough, as there is so much excellent content! The amount of time that it takes to complete each episode varies, but if I had to make a guess it takes on average 6-8 hours, depending on the length of the recorded interview, the amount of great stories we have to narrow down, and the complexity of the color correction. But despite its difficulty, the end result of a concise, interesting, and informative video makes it all worth it.
Melissa C. '20
- Position: I handle the administrative side of things along with T.S. ‘18. I also help contact the professors and schedule their interviews.
- MIT life outside Tea with Teachers: I'm Course 9 [Brain and Cognitive Sciences] and currently living in Burton Conner, and I'm from Long Island, NY. Besides being involved in Tea with Teachers, I am in Chamber Music Society where I play in a string quartet, and I also work for MIT ATI (Academic Teaching Initiative). I will also be UROPing in the Gabrieli Lab! Hobbies include but are not limited to: eating, reading, YouTube, listening to music, eating, chilling with friends.
- Favorite TwT story: omg during the Professor Grossman interview, he said, "I think I really hit the jackpot with my wife" and that was just really cute. He also salsa danced with our interviewer!! The man is hilarious and awesome and all of us watching the interview from behind the scenes died laughing the entire time.
- Reasons to get involved: I joined TwT because I really believed in the mission and it seemed like a good way to get involved in the MIT community. But I definitely got more than I initially came for, and in a good way; I never expected the community I would be a part of with the team, or how great professors are to talk to, or how much we have grown compared to a year ago.
- The TwT experience: It is so great to see how excited the whole team gets when certain milestones happen (such as this blog post!) or after certain professor interviews or on pub nights before our releases on Tuesdays at 10pm, or even when thinking about future interviews. The excitement is really contagious and just makes me even more excited and happy for our team. It's such a great TEAm to be a part of :D
Talia K. '20
- Position: On the executive board.
- MIT life outside Tea with Teachers: Course 3 [Materials Science and Engineering]; I live in Theta (I used to live in New House 4, which has since relocated to Tang); I'm from Phoenix, AZ; Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Emerson Fellow in Jazz Voice, Tea with Teachers (obvi), Kappa Alpha Theta, SWE [Society of Women Engineers], MIT Arts Scholar, and Associate Advisor, MIT Outing Club; hobbies: Meeting new people!
- Relationships with professors: My professors are amazing. Every professor I've had so far has always been happy to answer my questions, meet with me, and give me advice. Last year I was lucky enough to be a part of the Concourse learning community, where I was given opportunities to connect with my teachers on a more personal level through opera outings, weekly philosophical seminar discussions, and day-to-day interactions in the Concourse lounge.
- Reasons to get involved: I saw how powerful the videos were and knew I wanted to be a part of the team. I mean, not everyone needs to join TwT. While we need new blood and would be excited if someone passionate about the project wanted to join, I would hesitate to make a huge point that people should join - that's not the goal. What we want most is for people to watch the videos and, because of them, interact with their professors more.
- The TwT experience: It has been an amazing experience! I've met so many interesting professors and learned so much about them - they never fail to surprise and impress me. It really is a family - we are all super close and work really hard. I think people would be surprised to know that for every 3-4 minute episode we put out, there were probably at least 20 man-hours put into its making (but honestly, probably more - we work a lot rip).
ADDENDUM: I know I already submitted a response earlier but I just thought of something I want to add: When I first joined TwT, I never imagined that we would someday be getting an MIT Admissions blog post or that we would be interviewed for MIT News (sometime in the future); I just joined because I supported the mission and thought it was a cool concept. The fact that we are having the opportunity to get such publicity is really a direct result of the initiative and passion that all our team members show for the project. It's so amazing to be a part of a team where everyone actively works to promote our message. I remember one time we were moving our set furniture from the Stud [Student Center] to the Media Lab for an interview, and when T.S. ‘18 was asked in the elevator what the chairs were for, she said, "Oh yeah this is for Tea with Teachers - you should check out our YouTube channel!" I found it great that a team member would always be willing to promote our group even when all that lactic acid is building up in the arms from carrying that chair. - Melissa C. '20
Positions Tea with Teachers is recruiting for:
If interested, you can email me and I’ll forward your message to the TwT team.