An English Teacher’s Reflections on Good Writing in an AI World | Alli Minch | 4 Min Read

January 30, 2023

Even with 28 years of classroom experience, I’m often surprised by the impact of technological innovations on my teaching. So, the articles about ChatGPT answering questions and generating college-level essays just blew my mind. According to the New York Times, over a million people signed up to test it in the first five days! And AP teachers report that the ChatGPT can convincingly address prompts for LEQ, FRQ, and SAQs. The takeaway for one college professor, interviewed by NBC New’s Kalhan Rosenblatt, is that “the best defense against AI essays is teachers getting to know their students and how they write in order to catch a discrepancy in the work they’re turning in.” Tom Daccord emphasizes the vitality of teachers’ familiarity with student writing in his Intrepid Ed article. And, in an ideal world, we’d all have the time to develop that relationship. It’s significantly easier to build at an independent school—my public school load of 205 student contacts a day made that a much more challenging task.

My general sense of impending doom in a writing class is inflamed by paragraphs written by AI, including, from Daccord, “Sudowrite’s ability to work with the tiniest seed of an idea makes it a potential boon for the writer wondering where to begin, how to build, or what might be next. But it can help in any kind of writing. Sudowrite works well with nonfiction writers, whether their writing topic is new for them or familiar. In fact, it could be helpful for all writers, no matter the field, because it is so focused on the words that are actually written.”  And learning that Sudowrite can learn and produce writing in a student’s style inspires an increased sense that becoming familiar with a student’s writing is not going to be sufficient for very long in combating AI in a traditional English classroom.  My literal, initial reaction to the ChatBot was “what fresh hell is this?” followed by a more sincere, but still hopeless, “how do we empower students to recognize and create strong, impactful writing when doing so requires their effort and plugging information into ChatGPT does not?” The obvious challenge, despite Sudowrite’s claims, is whether a struggling writer with limited ownership of the final product will let the AI run with the topic, or whether that writer takes inspiration from a paragraph or line…

Register Now
You may use your member school or partner discount code !!!

Alli Minch

Alli Minch serves as English Department Lead for OESIS Faculty Placement. Previously, she taught AP English Language & Composition, AP English Literature & Composition, and various AP Social Science classes at Oak Hill School (OR), an independent school, for the past nine years. She has over 28 years of experience in teaching and has held various mid-level positions. She is based in Oregon.