I learned that kids with different personalities respond to different languages. For example, for a particularly "rowdy" kid Abby in the program, it was more effective to convince her that she is a responsible and independent person when demanding her to clean up after herself. For example, when she got mad at the foreign kids for pushing her, and said that she wouldn't talk to the foreigners because "they should speak English", I was able to tell her assertively that she needs to respect the foreign kids instead of blaming them for something that they couldn't control.
I learned that being genuine, patient, and consistent was important to being a successful mentor. On my first day, I was expecting the kids to be kind of loud and a little hard to control. I knew the children had been through a lot and I had to be very patient and understanding to be a good mentor. The first couple of days, the kids were wary of the mentors and sometimes were difficult to manage. We remained patient and always tried to meet the kids' needs to the best of our abilities, which paid off. Eventually the kids started to trust us and we started to form close relationships with them. They started to open up about their experiences, and I learned that acknowledging their struggles helped me to understand and mentor them better.
I learned that it's important to be aware of students' backgrounds and make sure that you do not say something crass or something that could be taken negatively by a child. There was a girl who had a bad behavior but who also had a negative past. I needed to learn to pay attention to other students' behaviors around her to make sure that all of them behaved. This week has also helped me make sure that the children resolve conflicts themselves rather than for me to try to resolve their differences. Also, since I was the "teacher" in this situation, I learned that it was better to make sure that even though the students are my friends, I needed them to understand that I was the one in charge of them and not the other way around.
Children often need an incentive to do things - but they don't have to be overly important or valuable. Cupcakes and popsicles were easy incentives for the kids to clean up, but otherwise it was difficult to have them do anything. It was also interesting to see how the kids interacted with each other; they would often be rough, but not unkind. I remember that the general rule in my school/pre-K place, the rule was to always keep your hands to each other. Here, the kids would playfully arrest each other in a game of pretend police, sometimes grabbing or dragging each other. I'm not sure whether this is due to cultural differences or just due to different practices. The older kid, Darius, would often curse in front of the younger ones. He wouldn't stop when we simply told him not to say things like that, but he stopped when I asked to say them for the sake of the younger ones. I doubt many of the attributes that we typically assign to racial stereotypes come only from different cultures; they're built through the kids' environment as they grow up.