T-Talks Reinvent Teacher-Student Relationship

Here’s a student highlight story on Gabby von Euw from Bay Area, California.

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In her freshman year of the 2016 spring semester, Gabby von Euw was working at the Student Life department of Chabot Community College where her responsibilities included coming up with new ways to engage students on campus. Gabby always enjoyed watching inspirational talks on YouTube and thought it would be a great idea to bring to life such talks on campus by having professors share about their journey and the lessons learned on their career path.

“I enjoy listening to inspirational talks and life stories because it motivates me to pursue my own career path and continue moving forward. So, I thought it would be great to bring something similar to campus because I knew there would be others that would be inspired and benefit from this event!”

We often associate our professors with term assignments and papers or a specific expertise or niche perspectives, but rarely do we realize our professors are people, too. Our professors stood in our shoes at some point and they went through a process that led them to be teaching at our university today. 

IMG_8082Naomi and Gabby, creators of the T-Talks.

Naomi Froehlich, also a student at Chabot at the time, realized how disconnected students were to the professors and faculty from her interaction with students at the campus tutoring center. There was a misunderstanding that the relationship between students and professors was solely oriented around grades.

Naomi could see that professors really had much more wisdom to share outside of the classroom and academics and could be a strong support system for students. From her own experience, Naomi connected with one professor who shared about her tendency toward perfectionism and could then give tips to Naomi on how to deal with this inclination.

These life lessons were something that any student could relate to, no matter their major.

Gabby and Naomi came to find out they had a similar idea so they put it into action. The two pooled their resources from the tutoring center and the Student Life department and together, they created T-talks. Before Naomi transferred out, she connected Gabby with two other like-minded students who are now helping Gabby host the T-talks in its third semester. 

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So, what is a T-Talk? T-Talks stand for “Teacher Talks” which are focused on three main points: Inspire, Connect, Empower (ICE). The hope is that through T-talks, professors, who are teachers, can share their personal testimonies of their academic career, life, and how they came to where they are at now. Teachers can share tips and advice to help inspire and empower students to continue persevering and doing great things.

This event is meant to encourage students to enjoy their academic and career-searching journey, rather than over-stressing and feeling hopeless. And this is also a way for students to connect and better understand their professors, which can help their overall college experience.

“In the beginning, it was difficult to get these T-talks going. We worried about whether people would come. But relatively quickly, it became easier and easier to make happen. Now we always have on average 30 students attending and their responses have been very positive.”

Gabby and her team prepare flyers for each monthly T-Talk and post them across campus to attract students and other professors to attend. They also utilize their Facebook page for outreach and even post T-Talks to YouTube

IMG_5587Nate Moore, a campus security guard presents his story, titles “Getting Off Your Knees.”

At the start of each event, one of the organizers explains the concept of these T-talks for newcomers, then introduces the professor-speaker. The professor-speaker shares his or her story for 20-40 minutes.

Examples of talk titles have been “Getting Off Your Knees,” “In Pursuit of Passion,” and “How to Turn Failures Into Successes.” All of these talks focus on personal testimony and lessons learned to stimulate a more internal interaction between professors and students. 

IMG_5926Professor Ianniallo shares her story of being in college for 11 years and becoming a Communications professor. 

Following the talk, students can ask questions in an open forum style. Gabby and her team make sure to end the event with some feedback and announcements about the next T-talk. There is always a lot of engagement in the open forum as students become more interested in their professor’s life experience.

“What I learned is to take initiative and be proactive. If I have an idea then I need to take the responsibility and initiative in making it happen. My perspective has changed. Doing these T-Talks and organizing other activities for my local church community brings me lots of joy and happiness because I can see it brings a smile to the people who participate. A smile makes it all worth the effort!”

These events are a substantiation of an inspiration. A key factor in Gabby’s success in establishing these T-talks on her campus is the fact that she had a team around her for support – others who shared in her vision. This is the third semester in which these T-talks will be in session and undoubtedly, these will be a success even after Gabby moves on. 

IMG_5971T-Talks in  the Chabot Spectator campus newspaper.

Gabby is studying Kinesiology and finishing up her time at Chabot community college this semester. With plans on the horizon to transfer to a four-year state university by next fall, we hope she is inspired to continue these T-talks so long as she is a student.

In addition to planning monthly T-Talks, attending to her studies, and playing soccer during fall semesters, Gabby is involved in her local church community with organizing activities for the youth and also helping out at Young Adult Ministry.

Before college, Gabby was part of the GPA program for two years from 2013-2015. She had the opportunity to work with CARP Las Vegas for a couple months during the program and was inspired by the community and events they had established there. These T-Talks are an expression of that inspiration as she sought to create more engagement in her community.

These T-Talks are similar to CARP Talks as they are short, powerful talks meant to inspire. This adaptation of the talks by inviting professors to connect to students on a deeper level is a wonderful and innovative approach to creating community on campus. 

“Thank you for letting me share. Sometimes you forget how far you’ve come.”

Consider getting your professors involved and start organizing T-Talks on your campus. Reach out to Gabby or CARP HQ for more information about T-Talks.

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