How Teachers Can Use ChatGPT to Nurture Authentic Relationships with Parents (And Make Our Lives Easier)

By Crystal Frommert and Lainie Rowell, Educators

McGraw Hill
Inspired Ideas

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Educators know that building a partnership with their students’ parents and caregivers is crucial for the success of the students. Keeping families informed of their child’s progress can foster support and positive engagement that benefits everyone in the learning process. Yes, all of that is true…but, realistically, when do teachers have the time to foster positive partnerships with each child’s parent?

As Crystal writes in her 2023 book, “When Calling Parents Isn’t Your Calling: a teacher’s guide to communicating with parents,” “Each time you interact with a parent, you are building the foundation for success for the student.” Her book mentions several methods of communicating with parents including: emails, phone calls, class newsletters, report card comments, parent night, parent conferences, and “happy notes”. Crystal writes, “Sending happy notes to parents throughout the year is one of the most rewarding ways to spend a few minutes of your day. A happy note is a short message telling a parent that their child has done something remarkable.” Sending a positive note, whether it be to a parent, colleague, or directly to a student, is one of many ways to express gratitude for the joys of teaching and learning.

How can educators reach out positively to parents with “happy notes” to share gratitude while also juggling the hundreds of other tasks that come up throughout the day? AI might be the answer to this. Technology has been making teachers’ lives easier for decades through inventions such as word processing, copy machines, overhead projectors, smart boards, internet/email… and now ChatGPT.

But wait, isn’t using AI impersonal and inauthentic? Is this “cheating”? It depends on how you use the tool, and while AI like ChatGPT will continue to improve, we can start using it today to authentically and efficiently build and maintain the home-school connection.

Getting the Best Out of ChatGPT

“GIGO” or “garbage in, garbage out” is a saying that means if you put bad information into a computer or system, you’ll get bad results out of it. As an AI language model, ChatGPT relies on high-quality input (questions, prompts) from users to provide accurate and helpful responses.

Let’s take a look at Lainie’s “3 Re’s” to avoid GIGO in parent communications:

Reflect:

  • Think about what you want to achieve in this communication and anticipate the parent’s questions and concerns.
  • Consider how you can be clear, specific, relevant, and provide context in your very first message to ChatGPT.

Pro Tip: Avoid including any identifying information such as names or locations. Assume that anything you put in there is not private/secure. (E.g. Just write “student” or “parent” instead of a person’s name.)

Revise:

  • Adjust the constraints like length and tone as necessary.
  • Ask it to add and/or remove specific words/phrases.
  • Keep it concise and respectful.

Pro Tip: Look for the good in chat GPT’s initial response and think critically about what you wish was better. You can even ask open-ended, thought-provoking questions in your response(s) to elicit more insightful and informative replies in the chat.

Review:

  • Check for errors.
  • Consider the parent’s perspective.
  • Revise further if needed.

Pro Tip: Perfect your message in ChatGPT, then add personal details and tweaks before sending it out. Remember, you are responsible for the final product.

Initially, going through this process might seem more time-consuming than writing the message yourself, but after you’ve used it a few times, it will be easy peasy. Plus, you’ll get to say goodbye to writer’s block!

The “3 RE’S” in Action

In the example below, a teacher asks ChatGPT to help write a “happy note” offering praise.

Review:

After the final review, the teacher copies the message over to email and makes final edits to ensure authenticity before entering the parent’s email address(es) and sending it. Here is the final product:

Subject: Rowan’s Exceptional Participation and Enthusiasm in Class

Dear Mrs. and Mr. García,

Just a quick note to let you know how impressed I am with Rowan’s active engagement in our class. He has been participating in discussions, asking thoughtful questions, and demonstrating a genuine enthusiasm for learning.

I appreciate his dedication and positive attitude in the classroom. Thank you for your continued support in fostering Rowan’s love for learning.

With gratitude,

Mr. Wang

The Bonus “Re”: Regenerate

Our human brains are wired for efficiency (even if it doesn’t always feel like it) so it’s really hard to write the same thing in a new way. And often more than one person needs the same message, but we don’t want the note to come off as “canned”. Enter the power of the “Regenerate” button! Once you and ChatGPT have crafted something magical that also applies to other people, smash that regenerate button and watch the rewrite happen for you.

Without question, ChatGPT can save us time and make our lives easier (we think of ChatGPT as an administrative assistant), but it is essential that we use our human brains to reflect, review, and revise everything to nurture those authentic, positive relationships.

Crystal Frommert, M.Ed, has over 20 years of experience as an educator in middle and high school. Crystal has taught math, computer science, and social justice in public, parochial, and international schools. Beyond teaching, she has served as an instructional coach, school board member, adjunct college instructor, technology coordinator, and assistant head of middle school. She has presented at local, national, and international educational conferences on topics ranging from social and emotional learning to technology integration. Crystal is a frequent contributor to Edutopia. She currently teaches middle school math in Houston, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and fluffy dog.

Lainie Rowell is an educator, international consultant, writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. She is the lead author of Evolving Learner, a contributing author of Because of a Teacher, and her latest book, Evolving with Gratitude, was just released. An experienced teacher and district leader, she is dedicated to building learning communities and her areas of focus include learner-driven design, social-emotional learning, online/blended learning, and professional learning. Since 2014, Lainie has been a consultant for the Orange County Department of Education’s Institute for Leadership Development.

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