Stages of Grief: an English Teacher’s First Encounter with AI

Rachel Jerez is the Director of Professional Learning at Opportunity Education. After more than ten years of teaching, her lens on the world of technology will always be shaped by her experiences as a high school English teacher. In this off-the-cuff creative piece, Rachel comes to terms with AI’s full throttle entrance into the world of ed-tech. 


  1. Shock. ChatGPT writes a pretty decent response to a timed writing prompt about Camus’s The Stranger? Cool! Oh hey… how about… change it to a 10th grader’s writing level and throw in a few grammatical errors for flavoring! That worked. That’s… unsettling.
  2. Denial. Just a moment, I’d like to stick my head in the sand for a bit. When I come up for air, I’m sure my fast-acting, well-informed government officials will have taken care of this. Shut down ChatGPT, issued slates and chalk to all of America’s high school students, and told us we can all go back to assigning the same essay to ninth graders about who is to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. All is well.
  3. Anger. Just a little AI-curious… “Hey, make me an activity for kids to do in groups about… Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.” Scorn. Then, disbelief. How dare it create a scavenger hunt with moderately acceptable questions along with vaguely obvious suggestions for making it an engaging competition? Disgust. Rage. (Fear?)
  4. Bargaining. This is fine. I could hand out the questions for this scavenger hunt. Kids could have fun with this. Learn so much! Yay! Learning is important. Like the way they’ll learn to type the questions into ChatGPT. And get the answers. That’s so fun. One AI just tested another AI. The AI’s are getting smarter with each other! Ha! Ha! It’s the apocalypse! I could be a lot happier in the service industry, I think.
  5. Depression. Maybe the problem isn’t the AI. Maybe it’s the never-ending lists of questions for kids to “learn about” a novel. Maybe it’s all the class periods where I have to put on a dog and pony show of fun! so exciting! activities that get kids riled up, but don’t require them to do any critical thinking or develop any original thought. Maybe it’s the fact that I am tired, so I am using the same essay prompt for Romeo and Juliet that I did in 2008.
  6. Acceptance. I am an excellent teacher. I work with other smart, creative, experienced teachers. This is a challenge, but maybe it’s the challenge we need. This could be the pebble in my shoe that makes me re-think what I do with class time… makes me re-think what purpose is served by the kind of homework I assign. This could be the THING that is big enough and alarming enough for us to say, “maybe we need our kids to be developing skills in class, not just racing to memorize content in time for an end of course state test”?
  7. Hope. What if AI could give me some time back? Help me write sub plans, or change the reading levels on an article for easy differentiation? Maybe it could craft an email announcement about a field trip. Maybe I’d have time to design and create… time to listen more and give real feedback during class. Maybe I’d even have the space to remember what it is I love about teaching and learning.


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