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  • Writer's picturekatelyn russell

Experimenting With ChatGPT - Email Edition

I sat down this morning to mine my email for messages I’ve sent over the years about student behavior, worries, grades, etc. Anything that I might classify as a tough email to send. I planned to find these emails, copy and paste the text, and then anonymize them to create a template. But during my morning pages this morning something came up about AI and ChatGPT. How am I going to 1) learn about it and 2) integrate it into my health classes in a smart, responsible, helpful way? I have no idea, but since the first step is learning about it and the only way to learn is to do it, I thought I’d ask it to write some emails for me.

Okay, so if you’ve never used ChatGPT, the first thing you’ll need to do is sign up. It takes about two seconds. Go do it now! Once you sign up, you land on a page that looks like a large customer service chat. I haven’t used it much, this is only my second or third time playing around with it. Here’s what I typed into the chat: write an email to a caregiver of a high school student to let them know the student misbehaved in class. Here’s what ChatGPT spat out:

Subject: Concerns Regarding [Student's Name]'s Behavior in Class

Dear [Caregiver's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am reaching out to discuss a recent incident involving your ward, [Student's Name], in my [Subject] class on [specific date].

On that day, [Student's Name] exhibited behavior that was not in line with the expectations we have for our students. Specifically, [he/she] [brief description of the misbehavior, e.g., "interrupted the class multiple times despite warnings, spoke disrespectfully to a peer, etc."]. This type of behavior can disrupt the learning environment and detract from the experience of other students.

It is essential for me to maintain a positive, respectful, and productive classroom environment for all students. To that end, I have spoken with [Student's Name] about this incident, emphasizing the importance of respect and good behavior in our classroom.

I wanted to bring this to your attention in hopes that we can collaborate in guiding [Student's Name] towards making better behavioral choices in the future. I believe that with consistent communication and mutual support, we can help [him/her] understand the importance of positive behavior in the classroom and its impact on their learning and that of their peers.

If you have any insights into factors that might be influencing [Student's Name]'s behavior or suggestions on how best to support [him/her], I would greatly appreciate your input. I am also available to set up a meeting if you feel it would be beneficial to discuss this in person or over a video call.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Together, I am hopeful we can ensure that [Student's Name] thrives in our learning community.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Position/Role]

[School Name]

[Contact Information]

Um, excuse me, what!? Thank you for doing the emotional labor of starting this email, ChatGPT. Would I change things? Of course. I’d remove “ward” from the first sentence and tighten the whole thing up a bit. I’d rephrase the second paragraph to say, “class expectations,” instead of “expectations we have for our students.” But ChatGPT did the work of devising a basic backbone in about 10 seconds.

Other email subtypes I tend to write are those concerning students' well-being or mental health. So I put this into ChatGPT: generate an email to send to a parent of a high school student saying we are worried about them. Here’s what ChatGPT created:

Subject: Concerns Regarding [Student's Name]'s Well-being

Dear [Parent/Guardian's Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to reach out to share some observations and express concern about your child, [Student's Name], whom I have the privilege of having in my [Subject] class this year.

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed a change in [Student's Name]'s behavior and demeanor. [He/She/They] has/have been [specific observations, e.g., "more withdrawn than usual, has been missing assignments, seems fatigued, or appears distracted and distant during lessons"]. These shifts are not typical based on my earlier interactions with [him/her/them], and it has raised some concerns about [his/her/their] well-being.

It is always our priority to ensure the well-being and success of all our students, both academically and personally. We understand that high school can be a challenging time for many students, with various pressures and changes that can affect their mental and emotional health.

I would appreciate it if we could discuss any potential factors or circumstances that might be influencing [Student's Name]'s current state, to better support [him/her/them]. If there are specific challenges or concerns at home or outside of school that we should be aware of, please let us know. We want to work collaboratively to ensure [Student's Name] receives the support and care [he/she/they] needs.

If you feel it would be beneficial, I would be more than willing to arrange a meeting with you, [Student's Name], and our school counselor to discuss any potential support strategies or interventions.

Please know that our primary goal is to ensure [Student's Name]'s well-being and success. Your insights and partnership in this matter will be invaluable.

Thank you for your attention and understanding. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Position/Role]

[School Name]

[Contact Information]

Again, this needs some work. It’s a bit wordy and awkward. I’d delete paragraph four - it feels too invasive. But it’s something to work with.

Final thoughts: I didn’t have to do the work of writing an email, which tends to suck the life out of me and it is not a primary function of my job. On the other hand, I didn’t have to do the work of creating an email. Of using my brain to generate words of thin air and completing the puzzle of putting them together in a way that is clear, concise, and cogent (my dad’s advice for writing that I live by). What will this do to my ability to create over time? Who knows. Ideally, I can use that time and energy to create learning experiences for students.

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