NEIHOF: Giving gifts that last

-A A +A

In the mode of ‘Fred Claus,’ this is a list of gifts for all the nice students.

By James Neihof

There is a scene in the movie Fred Clausin which Fred (played by Vince Vaughn) is responsible for determining which child makes the Nice List or which child makes the Naughty List. The older brother of Santa Claus tires of the situation and the choice process, so he stamps each and every child as Nice, meaning each and every child receives what he or she wants.

I must be Fred Claus.

I consider each and every child in Shelby County Public Schools as being worthy of the Nice List and as deserving of what he or she wants from us – a quality education.

As superintendent, I am ultimately responsible for all aspects of the school district and the various gifts, as you might consider them, which we dispense on a daily basis.

Those other gifts are safe and sound buildings, safe and sound buses, and safe and sound fiscal holdings to meet our district’s needs.

However, like Fred Claus – my heart is for the child and for the learning he or she demands in order to graduate ready for college and for careers. That is why we are working diligently to place in every classroom the tools that teachers need to pass along to students the gifts known as “Thinking Strategies.”

It is not a catch phrase or a one-time educational fad. It is a proven practice that makes a student responsible for his learning, makes a student dig deeper into what knowledge is attained and makes a student have a connection to what is learned.

So, like Fred Claus, I am delivering to you – as parents and community members – the seven gifts of Thinking Strategies that we believe make a difference in the academic life of our students and teachers:

1.      Creating Sensory Images: Creating pictures in your head or on paper; pictures help build understanding and meaning.

2.      Questioning: Clarifies confusion; stimulates research; engages learners.

3.      Synthesizing: Combining new information with existing knowledge to form an original idea or see a new perspective.

4.      Inferring: Using background knowledge as clues to understand what is not “right there;” hypothesizing, predicting, estimating.

5.      Activating Background Knowledge: Using what we already know about ourselves, another text or the world to help us understand what we are reading or learning.

6.      Determining Importance: Finding key...ideas...concepts...themes.

7.      Monitoring for Meaning: Does this make sense? What don’tI know? How can I solve this problem?

I would even travel to the North Pole to ensure these strategies and other student-learning practices are in place for each and every child to be successful.

I owe it to them. Their teachers owe it to them. This community owes it to them.

Just think about this quote by John C. Maxwell as you ponder what gifts you distribute:

“It’s been said that we make a living but what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Just think about the lives all of us are making because of the quality schools you have so faithfully supported through the years. Thank you – on behalf of our students – for that gift.


James Neihof is the superintendent of Shelby County Public Schools. He can be reached at james.neihof@shelby.kyschools.us