Thinking Things

This post dates back just a little, in fact to 2007 and my Architecture of Ideas professional blog. At that time, I was writing online about my own relatively new journey in schools and education, and I had paused to reflect on the work kids do in school—and often, the work we as parents give kids. I am sharing a slightly revised version of it 10 years later here in our Field Notes as a reminder of “why Lab Atlanta.” There are many reasons for Lab Atlanta, but one is about the ethic of care and relationship we will have with our students as well as the privilege of helping to develop their ability to “think in the real world.”


Thinking things. One of the key concerns I have as an educator and a parent is how little we ask our students and children to do this thing called "thinking." We have conditioned them to react, respond and fill in the blank—to jump through the next hoop- but we have done little to prepare them to "figure it out." In our rush to get to the next thing on the filled-to-the-brim daily calendar or the next content area in a mile-wide and inch-deep curriculum, we adults do all the heavy lifting. And, yet we wonder why we are all so tired and why students/our kids keep looking at us and asking what to do next.

Someone shared with me recently the experience of an elder surgeon when accompanied by the new crop of residents. As they were making their rounds, he was appalled to observe the residents were plenty book smart but did not know how to think about the case at hand; in fact, he said they did not know what to do next when the case was not clear and therefore did not fit into a step 1, step 2, step 3 model. They did not know how to deal with ambiguity nor how to think in the real world.

Is there really such resistance to this work of thinking? Are our students and children incapable of critical thinking, and especially ill-equipped if they are not our Honors or AP students? I think not. I believe and have great faith that each child has the ability to think critically, indeed has something important to share, and can make important connections that will shed new light on a subject. But, only if:


We give them the space, the time, the opportunity and the expectation to think.


We do not do the thinking for them.

 And, if…

We make it safe for them to tell us what they are thinking.

What a privilege to be building Lab Atlanta with my colleagues and partners. Already we are modeling with one another the importance of critical thinking, of connecting our work to the real world, of expecting one another to do the heavy lifting, and making it safe to tell one another what we are thinking. I can’t wait for our students to join our community, to join in the work, and to see themselves as thinkers and problem-solvers. 

Laura Deisley, Founding Director