Wendel, Julia BlogMs. Wendel is a Math and Psychology Subject Expert Teacher, and a Master Teacher. She is a part of the fabric of our school, having been here since we opened. Ms. Wendel is a trusted advisor of our math sequence programmatics and curriculum.

In the beginning of the school year, I always give my Psychology students an assignment that asks them a couple of questions about themselves so that I can get to know them better. One of the questions is ‘Where do you see yourself in five, ten, and fifteen years?’ In my mind, I was thinking I would get back answers of doctor and lawyer, and, since we are in Silicon Valley, numerous software engineering positions. However, what the majority of my students submitted was surprising: Venture Capitalist. Even more intriguing is that it is not just a distant dream as you might expect—but they actually have a concrete plan on how to get there.

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Ms. Wendel's AP Psychology students working together to build a brain out of play-dough

So how is it that BASIS Independent Silicon Valley students have these high goals for their lives? For me, the answer lies in their intrinsic motivation and their ability to have a growth mindset. Growth mindset is a concept developed by Dr. Carol Dweck who researched students’ attitudes about failure and how students react to setbacks. She classifies people into two groups: those with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset. Growth mindset is the idea that brains and talent are just the starting point, but hard work, effort and dedication is what really counts. People who have a growth mindset believe that their brain is flexible and that they can help neural growth by practicing, challenging themselves, learning from mistakes and showing effort to get stronger and stronger and achieve their goals. Newest research in that area shows, that if we practice and challenge ourselves, neural networks in our brain grow new connections, strengthen existing ones and even build insulation to speed up neural impulses.


Ms. Wendel instructing her AP Calculus students

BASIS Independent students demonstrate this mindset daily. They build neural growth by critically assessing all presented material, asking questions, and practicing endlessly until they know they fully understand the concepts. They take an active role in their own learning, delve into new material, love challenges, and always try their best to grow academically as well as personally. In the classroom, my students challenge themselves to not only learn from mistakes, but also to ask for more and harder problems to foster the concepts. BASIS Independent Silicon Valley students create their own student-led clubs in which they pass on their new knowledge to others, such as Neuroscience Club. They explore additional areas of interest with post AP courses such as Differential Equations, and challenge themselves with Senior Projects, with topics focused on data science analysis of opioid abuse in VA hospitals. It is a true pleasure to see them develop this love of learning and resilience to setbacks that is essential for great accomplishments like becoming the next Venture Capitalist.

BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a grades 5-12 private middle and high school based in San Jose, California, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum