A Dystopian Tale Foretold? ChatGPT.

This is my original response to an assigned prompt in my School Building Leadership Internship Course – Spring 2023 semester.

Prompt: In this week’s discussion post, please select one quote, then make one comment on how you believe this technology may impact education. Please respond to at least one of your classmates posts. Do not create a new thread, simply respond to my post and to classmate’s posts. 

Article: ChatGPT banned from New York City public schools’ devices and networks


ChatGPT, the one and only AI platform brought up as a topic of conversation within the HHS ELA department during the late fall months of the 2022 – 2023 school year. The New York Times was the first mainstream publication I came across with the stark reporting, and then came the subsequent perspective of a high school English teacher in an op-ed piece for The Atlantic.  Both articles held a similar thematic message, it’s the end of the world, there goes humanity, teachers are insignificant, blah blah. But the alarms were blaring, as if preparing for a nuclear catastrophe, and you cannot ignore those sounds.

I myself had a conversation with a fellow educator and school leader, not affiliated with HCSD. The school leader held the perspective that there was a need for educators to be concerned. I listened as the conversation switched to an unforeseen thread altogether, and the question was raised, “Why do students need to learn how to write? Do they need it?” To which I responded with a hard blink of the eyes, and an eye roll.

Clearly ChatGPT and the doomsday dystopian scenarios attached to the AI platform have people reeling.

I keep reading articles, forums, tweets, and listening to fellow educators and non-educators alike, with an empathic lens. Yet, the more I read, and the more I listen, the more convinced I am there is something to talk about when it comes to my own perspective.

I’ve been in education for 18 years. ChatGPT is no different than the tutor, the Google search of something a student might deem worthy of a copy and paste, the older sibling/neighbor/cousin who was assigned the same exact essay 5 years prior, etc.  Wait, but we cannot have an opinion piece without acknowledging the AI tool afforded to teachers! The a-ha!, we gotcha AI platform to determine a submissions level of authenticity, like turnitin.com. Full disclosure, I use turnitin.com, but I didn’t get into teaching to complete a crime scene investigation on work submitted.

Since September of 2005, I continuously create authentic forms of lessons and assessments. Nothing comes from a handout, or a book, or Teachers Pay Teachers. Assessments, yes formative and summative, are not the same from year-to-year, are not the same from class period to class period, are not the same within the class period. I am always fine tuning lessons, assessments, differentiating and giving autonomy to the students (it is their learning after all).

I am reflective, constantly wondering if I am being culturally responsive to the ever changing needs of my students, and ask for their feedback. I value my students. I make sure to value each and every student, and every written and spoken word/creation with their name attached to it. I want students to know they are valued, not just by any person, they are valued by me. I value their thoughts and ideas and their role in the learning process– students feel seen, valued, heard, and that is an integral part of the ChatGPT conversation.

Today ChatGPT, tomorrow robots. No, I don’t believe robots are going take over the world, or America’s classrooms. But do I think there is a concern for the well-being of humanity? Maybe, but my concern for the well-being of humanity is not because of this AI platform. Humanity’s well-being can really teeter if today’s students, who one day will be responsible for humanity’s survival, become adults of tomorrow who lack confidence and ownership, believe their words and the words of others don’t matter, believe their thoughts and the thoughts of others aren’t good enough, believe they aren’t good enough, believe there’s no need to write or communicate, embrace apathy because, why bother with any other mindset?

To protect humanity we must illuminate the illusive apathetic mindset hiding behind the letters, C-H-A-T-G-P-T. To do so, we need to first ask some questions that may or may not start with the word, Why. Why was the ChatGPT platform generated in the first place (think about Stone’s concepts of welfare and security)? Why would a student opt to submit anything other than a product representative of their authentic voice? Why would a student resort to a sterile computer response, a response that could hold serious inaccuracies intertwined with “big SAT words,” rather than their own? Why does the student value the “thoughts” of AI over their own thoughts?

ChatGPT is here because students, society, humanity received the messages, messages of who are of value, why they are of value, and how to be of value. But who would send a message like that? Schools, towns, stakeholders (educators, school building and district leaders, parents, state and national figures), external curriculums like AP and IB, state standards, national standards, SAT, ACT,  all send messages. Why are these messages being sent to students and how if at all does the intended message differ from the message students receive? What role do parents and/or guardians play in disseminating messages that when interpreted have students turn to AI platforms like Chat GPT, rather than their own thoughts and ideas? How does a prescribed curriculum like IB, which places value on students’ social emotional competency skill development equivalent to knowledge, yet quantify their effort to document whether a student met a benchmark of a predetermined criteria of excellence?

Good teachers will keep asking good questions, and by good questions, I mean challenging questions like those I stated above.  Good teachers will keep creating a good curriculum, and a good curriculum is differentiated, student centered, authentic, inquiry based, rooted in student choice, values the student…. 

Technology is good and good teachers will keep incorporating purposeful tech use into the classroom. See, technology is not the enemy here. Even Elon Musk, the creator of ChatGPT is not the antagonist of this dystopian novel.  We cannot run away from technology or advancements– just think if we took a defensive stance against the printing press, or ” the calculator, which was decried as the death of math” (Rosenblatt, 2023)! We cannot get caught up in trying to catch or prevent the use of technological advancements and innovation. We must be on the offensive. It is now our responsibility, as educators and emerging school leaders, to reflect upon the individual and collective messages we send, the messages students receive, recognize our (and there are a lot of people, places, and things falling under the word our) contribution to the inception of this new need, and strategically dismantle any bit of apathy establishing roots in the hearts and minds of the 21st century k-12 learner.

Now #Trending…

Collaboration, in any organization, is key— especially when the goal is to create an inclusive environment for all individuals to feel valued and respected. The people within an organization, for the most part, want to experience an enriching workplace. Some may even wish to pay it forward.

Five years ago, a fellow English teacher and myself wanted to do just that, pay it forward. We took it upon ourselves to complete our Google Certification. We taught an in-district summer professional development course. We were selected to present at an annual English Teachers Conference in Albany, New York.

Our vision, The Trendy English Teachers, was coming to fruition, website and all. Unfortunately, the vision was placed on the back-burner, and not entirely from our doing alone.

Once the 2022-2023 school year rolled around, my fellow English teacher (yes, that same fellow English teacher), shared how she wished to somehow participate in my school building leadership internship experience. Like many other educators, my colleague is very much aware of the strengths she has to offer to the organization. Me, being the collaboration, true collaboration, advocate that I am, excitedly said, “Of course!”

So, as we always do, we got to work.

We sat down, made a tentative date and schedule for school-day availability, how we would construct courses based on teacher-driven needs. What would that look like? How would that look? What is required of us, and our participants (faculty and staff), to prepare for, and participate in, meaningful, voluntary, school day professional learning opportunities?

We listed “trendy” articles, “trendy” videos watched on social media, and shared our own “trendy” creations with one another.

We made a list of all the topics to cover, the target audience, the faculty. But there are others to consider, like the staff members of our building. The staff need to be equipped with the technology foundation because students look to them for support and guidance.

Would we include the administration? Yes! Of course! Why not? If the administration suggests technology be used in the 21st century classroom, then they too should have the knowledge of the types of technologies readily available to enhance student learning, performance and progress.

The origin of transformative change rests upon transformative leadership. Highlighting the positive contributions of others within an organization can possibly ruffle some feathers. However, the positives outweigh the negatives. As a future school building leader, I know I must honor the strengths of others within an organization. I must, in some way, make certain the individuals who wish to be directly and indirectly a part of the vision and mission’s sustainability be included, supported, and celebrated for their efforts.

#TrendThePositive

Trending Together with T & J, © J. Maricevic (2022)

Priorities.

My recent post is associated with a school building leadership assignment. Below is the task and my response.

Task: Read the article ‘When It Comes to the Teacher Shortage, Who’s Abandoning Whom?’. How do you see this article as relevant to school leadership? Cite one example.


Humanity-Based vs Business Capital

Nothing speaks more to me as an aspiring school building leader than the concept of enacting transformational change rooted in a “humanity-based model” (Fullan & Rizzotto, 2022). It seems as though the attention given to the “business capital” model (before the pandemic), inspired what now appears, in hindsight, as empty promises— promises to value innovation and creativity, for students and teachers, when things returned to normal. There was hope that maybe a silver lining coming out of this pandemic would be society’s acknowledgement of education as a non-gendered profession, compensate teachers for their years of expertise and degrees, etc. Unfortunately, the swift arrival of phrases like learning loss, constant references to a blanket academic deficit plaguing the intellectual development of America’s children, and the politicizing of education, accompanied fingers pointing in one direction, the classroom teacher.

Interconnected: Teacher-Leader Relationship

Interconnected with a teacher’s post-COVID experience is the role of the school building leader, district leader, and respective leadership teams. Individuals in these leadership positions must counter the destructive noise from outsiders and demonstrate to their faculty and staff that they are seen, valued, and heard (the essence of the Humanity-Based model). If students are deserving of an environment “where ‘belonging, purpose, individual and collective problem solving’ is fostered,” so are teachers. It comes as no surprise that many people will take the stance, teachers are abandoning students! Teachers are leaving the profession not because they forgot why they entered the teaching profession. Teachers are leaving the classroom because they never lost their “why” for entering the teaching profession in the first place, and their “why” is no longer valued.

The System Failed the Teacher

As a parent and educator, I sadly agree with the conclusion presented in the article, “that the old, deeply flawed system has de facto abandoned the teachers, not the other way around” (Fullan & Rizzotto, 2022). The challenges plaguing education, its teachers and students, are systemic, and any systemic challenge should be of great concern for educational leaders. Whether a school building leader or a district leader, those in coveted leadership positions must not only prioritize supporting students in all facets associated with the learning experience. School and district leaders must also prioritize and demonstrate to stakeholders how, and why, they support teachers in all facets of the post-COVID professional demands. A model of appreciation on the part of school and district leaders yields tremendous transformational power, exactly what the profession needs and deserves; nothing less.

It’s just Daisy, being Daisy

It’s just Daisy,
being Daisy.

It’s just Daisy,
being—

her gorgeous self,
and knowing
she’s gorgeous,
and expressing
a quiet,
self-confidence,
a happy tail-wag;
the usual.

Look close.
It’s just Daisy,
being Daisy.

She hears
three words.

And Daisy,
just being;
sticks out her tongue,
ever so slightly,
to whisper a reply,
ever so lightly—

“I love you, too.”

© Jessica Maricevic, 2022

A happy Daisy, post-spa day.

New Kid on the Block

The New Kid on the Block
© J.Maricevic, 2022

It’s tough to be the “New Kid on the Block.” But it’s much easier to be “the new kid,” to acclimate, get comfortable with new surroundings, manage new personalities, to feel included in what may, at first, seem like an impermeable pack, when someone reaches out a hand, or paw; a welcomed extension for all to see & emulate.

If you can put yourself in the “paws” of a puppy, a puppy attempting to navigate a new life, on a new street, with 14 other new doggos, from 10 different households, then you can empathize with the person to your left, and to your right. You can extend your hand, or paw, in an empathic gesture of kindness to the “new kid on the block.” You can dissolve those socially constructed barriers, and make that connection. Believe me, you can.

In this real-life scenario, and others like it, the human-animal relationship provides us humans with the necessary intra & interpersonal competency development to be better humans.

Furthermore, developing these social-emotional competencies, with the help of a furry friend, results in a transferable awareness to the way in which we interact with other humans.

So, next time, when you notice a “new kid,” on a new “block,” be an ally. Open your heart & mind to the benefits of getting to know someone, without passing judgment.

Think about that next time, when there’s a “new kid,” on a new “block,” will you choose to be an ally? Will you choose to open your heart and mind to the benefits of getting to know someone, without passing judgment? Will you think of the new puppy, on the new street?

Be the person who consciously considers life from someone else’s shoes, or paws. Be the one to welcome “the new kid on the block,” into your pack.