Is caring more important at some educational levels (e.g., elementary versus secondary) than others? Why or why not?
Caring is important at all educational levels. People of whatever age benefit from connection, support and compassion. Young students need caring even more. They are still developing physiologically and neurologically until well into high school and usually beyond. They are also developing emotionally at the same time and benefit strongly from a safe, supportive, even loving environment. Learning is about strengths, weaknesses, success and failure. It is also very much about resilience. Resilience is fueled by unconditional love and support. Caring is the foundation of healthy learning.
Different ages (and different children of the same age) will need different kinds of support and caring. But each child will benefit from being ‘seen’ and being cared for. In many cases, sending a message that the outcomes at school matter to the teacher might be the only positive messages about school success the student receives. It might be the only message of the student receives that they matter. Fortunately, this is not usually the case, but it is difficult to imagine that anyone wouldn’t benefit from knowing one more person cares about them.
Of course, children of different ages will respond differently and will need to be cared for differently (as will each individual regardless of age). Elementary students are more likely to be open to overt affection and caring. Moving into adolescence, there will a tendency to posture an independence, a growing up. But the need will remain and the caring will be received and honored so long as it doesn’t compete with the student’s need to individuate. I have less recent experience with and knowledge of high school behavior but from what I can remember peer group becomes the dominant factor. I’d imagine that the caring needs to be reshaped into a subject driven relationship. This is to say that teachers care for high school students by caring for their work and, by extension, caring for them as creative individuals.
Caring is essential for teachers and for all of us. It’s a cold rock we live on. Caring is all we really have.