Teacher Can’t Help But Be ‘Sad’ After Catching A ‘Struggling’ 4th Grader Using Chat GPT On An Assignment

“They had been struggling up to this point, but we were getting there.”

Fourth grade student working on his laptop. Syda Productions / CanvaPro

While the discourse around AI-generated technologies and tools is often exciting and transformative, it has also caused a lot of headaches in schools. Not only are teachers often reliant on flawed software to detect which students are using programs like Chat GPT to complete assignments, but they’re also burdened with the learning consequences that it presents in kids.

The use of AI has already been shown to harm students’ thoughtful critical thinking skills and creativity. It is also known to output false data, biased information, and copyrighted material subject to violation, putting students at risk for more than just suspension or call home. 


And this isn't just happening on a high school or college level — elementary-aged students already have their hands on AI.

One fourth-grade teacher was saddened after she realized her student used Chat GPT on an assignment. 

Posting to the “ELA Teachers” Reddit forum, the educator shared that when she noticed something strange about an assignment turned in by a “struggling student,” she didn’t immediately think to assume AI tools were the culprit. In fact, it wasn’t until she looked at the “history” of the document that she was forced to reckon with the reality of the situation.


“I’m gutted to have found my first Chat GPT essay in only fourth grade,” she wrote. 

‘Sad’ Teacher Catches ‘Struggling’ 4th Grader Using Chat GPT Sergey Maksienko / Shutterstock

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“A student came in this morning all bubbly about the amount of work they had put in last night on a writing assignment with their mom,” she explained. “They had been struggling up to this point, but we were getting there.”


Excited to see some kind of spark in this student after a few months of intellectual and educational challenges, she quickly came back to reality when she started to grade their assignment.

“I checked the updated Google Doc and wowza. It had gone from a rough first draft in need of more details and transition words to an elegant piece of writing that a high school student would be proud of.”

@sincerelymahogany The Chat GPT epidemic in High school 🤦🏾‍♀️😭😂😂 #teachertok #teachersoftiktok #teacherlife ♬ original sound - Mahogany💚

Complete with “complex-compound sentences [and] top-tier vocabulary” — something that no high-achieving fourth grader is adding to their assignments — she immediately knew something fishy was going on.


After checking the ‘edit history’ on her fourth-grader’s assignment, she quickly realized the student had help from both a parent and AI.

“I checked the editing history (for the first time ever) and discovered the point at which a Chat GPT outline was copy/pasted in, and every change made after that,” she explained.

Despite many teachers online admitting they’ve struggled with similar Chat GPT tropes, not many can say they’ve uncovered circumstances quite like this Reddit teacher. Not only did she learn her fourth-grade student used Chat GPT — something that probably would’ve been a feat in itself for the average 9-year-old — but she boasted about “working hard” on it with her mom.

Mom helping daughter use Chat GPT On An Assignment goodluz / Shutterstock


“I’ve asked my admin how to handle this, but I’m just so SAD. The kid couldn’t even pronounce some of the words in the introduction,” the teacher wrote. 

As she perused more of the document’s history, she noticed that some of the larger and more complex sentence structures and words were manipulated to seem more “appropriate” for a fourth grader.

Assuming it was the work of the student’s parents — who she acknowledged “likely would” do something like this — she couldn't help but sadly question the entire situation. “Why would a parent do this?”

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Many teachers shared a similar distaste for AI tools in education, arguing that they teach kids manipulative skills rather than comprehensive learning.

The use of AI tools impacts a variety of different industries, from education to Corporate America, with a wide range of consequences and benefits. For students specifically, the use of Chat GPT software in recent years has become a hotly debated topic, as many students use it to generate essays, assignments, and ideas for the classroom.

While some suggest that it holds great potential in students’ lives — from helping their brainstorming approach to freeing up time in their homework process at home — many teachers passionately disagree, as it unwaveringly increases the potential for reliance and takes away a degree of “effort” in students’ work.

@nexus_research Should you use AI in school? Is it hurting your learning experience? Let's break it down here. #learning #AI #nexus #school #highschool #college #computerscience ♬ original sound- nexusresearch.ai

While research and teacher testimonies passionately argue that using AI tools, specifically Chat GPT, can hinder students’ learning, the truth is more complex. AI is undeniably becoming a part of our world and will inevitably affect these students' futures, whether we want to admit it or not. 


There’s also a concerning number of issues with detection software that point to AI use. From biases towards non-native English speakers to fundamental challenges in software like “Turnitin,” students often bear the burden of proving false negatives in allegations of Chat GPT use. 

Of course, in situations with students as young as this, the teacher truly condemns the parent — for not only allowing but assisting in an “unethical” use of the software.

Ultimately, the ethics and limits of AI use within the educational realm are yet undefined. To what extent should students be allowed to use AI technology to their advantage without completely detaching from concepts of learning, growth, and critical thinking? The future is still relatively unknown, but for now, teachers continue to debate with their unique classroom situations as evidence.


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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a News & Entertainment Writer at YourTango who focuses on health & wellness, social policy, and human interest stories.