Academic Dishonesty and Inspector Gamache

Cheating and plagiarism happen. I knew that in theory, but it was a disappointing thing to deal with in my own classroom. In a particularly bad season of this, I realized that I wanted to find a way to hold students accountable to high standards of academic ethics while teaching them why it so was important and how to avoid falling into the problematic behavior again. I found a great tool to aid me in this in a surprising place, a series of mystery books by Louise Penny. Her character Chief Inspector Gamache is famous for mentoring problem police officers. He tells them that to be wise they must learn to say four sentences easily- “I’m sorry, I was wrong, I don’t know, I need help.” What does this have to do with academic integrity? In talking to students who cheated or plagiarized, I realized that many of them had one thing in common. They were overwhelmed by their academic situation and that led to bad choices. They didn’t know how to ask for help or were ashamed to ask. Sharing Penny’s four sentences as class expectations in the beginning (and in those teachable moments after bad choices) has given me a powerful tool for difficult conversations. As an expectation for my classroom culture, it helps students avoid getting into those situations. They know that I expect them to ask for help and admit mistakes. I discuss times when I have had to ask for help and admit my mistakes to them as well. As a guide for the difficult conversations that must occur, the four sentences give me an opportunity to show students a better way, encouraging their growth and making the most of teachable moments.

Image lists the four sentences in the blog post.