On the Rise: Kendrick Wang – A Teacher Rising Above Failure

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By David Ly Khim

“You think you know what practice really means, but you don’t,” says Kendrick, grinning, in the midst of a revelation. “That’s what I would tell myself 5 years ago.”

“Back then, I understood that to get better was to practice, but I didn’t really understand the concept. I remember in tennis, I would say ‘I wish I could get better,’ and I’d practice,” Kendrick reflected on his personal development, “but I didn’t feel like I even made the real, solid connection of understanding [what practice is] until my third or fourth year  in college. There’s a difference between hearing it and really understanding and applying it to your life.”

“After I understood that, I knew I can do so many things because I’ve been willing to put in work every day to get better at something.”

Kendrick Wang is an entrepreneur, a dancer, a mentor, a teacher, and forever a student. Born and raised in Fremont, California, at 22, Kendrick is a recent graduate from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) with a degree in Information Management. He has been involved in a number of organizations and projects during his time at UCI and documents them on his personal website. Despite his successes, Kendrick has managed to remain humble and positive, and continues to look to the future with large ambitions.

Kendrick was greatly involved with the Student Parent Orientation Program (SPOP) at UCI, staffing the program for two years. SPOP proved to be the catalyst that drove Kendrick’s development throughout college. As a staffer for the program, he was able to help incoming college freshmen make the transition from high school to college. “We were always pushing the freshmen to do more stuff so we were pushing ourselves too.”

However, there was a point when Kendrick was rejected by almost everything he attempted to be involved in, including jobs, dance teams, and mentor programs. “I became more isolated during that transition period. It was a really shitty feeling.” This feeling of rejection is familiar for many of us and doesn’t seem to become much easier to deal with. We feel unwanted, useless, as if we have no purpose. It’s difficult to rise out of these sinkholes of rejection and self-loathing. Kendrick was stuck with this feeling of rejection for six months, but he persevered and became involved with teaching programs and individuals that elevated him out of the depths.

Kendrick was accepted as a discussion leader for a University Studies class through the Office of Undecided/Undeclared—his first big teaching experience. One of his favorite memories of the position was helping two freshmen students create a path toward a future of becoming actuaries. “UCI doesn’t have a program for that. I did the research for them and figured out what classes they needed to take to pass the exam to become an actuary, and what skills they needed.” Kendrick helped them choose a suitable major and get the classes they needed to get on track.

After gaining experience in teaching, Kendrick became a peer assistant for a coaching class and began to develop an idea of what it meant to be a great teacher. He had the opportunity to work with Jeff Johnston, a UCI professor in the Department of Education (he has a rating of 4.8/5 on Rate My Professors by the way). According to Kendrick, Johnston is the type of professor who knew everyone’s name and organizes activities to encourage student participation. “I could see that he really thought about every little detail of the class,” he recalls. What Kendrick enjoyed the most was that Johnston wasn’t afraid to joke around and make fun of himself—he was comfortable with his students.

Continuing his path in teaching, Kendrick was  accepted to the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. The program provides students whose native tongue is English with jobs in Japan teaching English to students at the K-12 grade levels. “Teaching is one of my long-term goals—in the future I want to work on education reform—I also really want to travel and see the world.” However, he does realize that he will be throwing himself into an environment completely foreign to him. He’s still just learning Japanese and he hasn’t been to Japan before. It’s going to be a complete culture shock to him, but he’s looking forward to the challenge.

Stemming from his plans to wangkendrickwork in education reform and administration, Kendrick has begun working on an education blog in order to share teaching strategies. “I want to interview the best teachers to figure out what teaching techniques they use, what their teaching philosophies are, and find that commonality of what makes  good teacher.” Kendrick hopes that the blog will gain enough traction that teachers will read it and learn from other teachers.

After his multiple involvements in teaching and with his future teaching career in Japan, it isn’t surprising that the idea of opening up a school has crossed Kendrick’s mind more than a few times. “It seems like something that’s really far off, but if I start planning now, I definitely think I could make it happen in ten years.” However, Kendrick isn’t blinded by ambition. He acknowledges that he must have a strong foundation in the education sector before stepping up to that administrative plate and he looks to strengthen that foundation within the next few years by teaching and learning from other teachers.

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The idea of failure has driven Kendrick to become who he is today. “I felt like I was in this bubble in high school—it was really difficult to fail. I always had the support of my parents, they would always back me up with whatever I was doing—I always had a fallback.” He purposely chose a school that was far away from home to avoid relying on his parents. Upon arrival to college, Kendrick began to understand what it was like to be independent. “I wanted to become my own man.” Paired with independence is the risk of failure and of having no fallback. After receiving rejection after rejection, Kendrick learned failure and the insecurity of having no fallback to rely on. He has had his share of moments during which he stood alone and pulled himself out of his hardships.

I’ve learned so much more with every failure than with my successes.

He used his shortcomings to push himself further in life, to not be comfortable with any situation. “Now I welcome failure. You can’t grow if you don’t trip and fall down. It’s like learning to walk. If you just keep crawling all your life, you’re not going to get anywhere, but if you try to stand up, you might fall, and scrape your knee, but you get back up again and learn to get better.”

The people who “will believe in you even in the smallest way” are the ones who helped Kendrick grow and pushed him the most. He recalls speaking to a friend about his growing interest in becoming a journalist, she responded with, “Yeah, I could definitely see you being a journalist.” A simple phrase of encouragement can be the catalyst that drives people to continue doing what they enjoy.

Through his successes and failures, Kendrick has developed a unique method of dealing with stress. Rather than going for a walk or doing something to get his mind off his stress like many of us would do, he tackles his stress head-on. “I just feel the stress.” Kendrick thinks about a problem as much as possible until he figures out all the possible solutions. He believes that some of the most creative ideas stem from stress.

Kendrick has learned to maintain a positive state of mind by surrounding himself with supportive people.  However, he does acknowledge that it’s a process and, unfortunately, he has had to spend less time with certain people in his life.

“I hate the idea of it, but there have been people in my life that only helped me see the negative side of things. They were always criticizing and telling me what I shouldn’t do. The fact of the matter is sometimes it’s just a lot healthier to stop hanging out with those people as much.” Many of us get stuck with these types of people without realizing it. We may want to do or learn something, but the people around us are less than supportive of our interests, and those interests—potential passions—are lost.

“Just find people that are willing to invest in you and genuinely care about you.” Kendrick recalls a saying by an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn,

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

wangkendrickdanceIf you surround yourself with people who are driven, hard-working, positive, and willing to help you in everything you do, then you’ll feel like you can do everything.

Kendrick believes that positivity involves uplifting and encouraging yourself as well as other people. “I think positivity is this energy you carry around with you—a willingness to listen and to understand others. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone has something they can teach you. You just have to be open and willing to accept it.”

When asked what Kendrick believes is a positive state of mind, he responded with his favorite quote by author Mary Anne Radmacher,

Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’

In the end, with his teaching experiences and business endeavors under his belt and large ambitions for the future, Kendrick bluntly states, “I don’t feel comfortable where I am, but I feel comfortable with who I am.”

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Affiliations & Involvements:

American Campus Communities – Community Assistant

B-Boys Anonymous at UCI

The Before I Die Wall at UCI

Education Course with Jeff Johnson – Peer Assistant

Irvington Girl’s Tennis Team – Assistant Coach

The Master Mind

Mission San Jose Girl’s Tennis Team – Assistant Coach

Modern Completely Insane Anteaters

NASA Ames Research Center – Education Associate Program Intern

Panoply – Co-Founder, Personal Stylist

Project Groovement – Dancer

Student Parent Orientation Program at UCI – Staffer

University Studies Course – Discussion Leader

Do you know someone who has an UnParalleled perspective and inspires you to become better?  Contact us with your suggestions for upcoming interviews!

Pictures Sources: Fotofillic

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6 thoughts on “On the Rise: Kendrick Wang – A Teacher Rising Above Failure

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