Fall is finally here. The season of the great pumpkin, warm drinks, hayrides, Halloween and everyone’s favorite ... parent/teacher conferences.

As parents we want to know how best to approach parent/teacher conferences in order to help our kids find success. Marietta Reynolds has been an educator for 14 years and is currently teaching kindergarten at Pickett Elementary for the St. Joseph School District. She feels parents and teachers are partners in their students’ education, so they need to communicate in order to best meet the needs of the students.

“Teachers want the best for their students and want to work together with parents to help their students show success,” Reynolds said. “Success looks different for each student. Any time a student is showing growth either academically or socially is a time to celebrate. A decline in any area, or if a student is struggling to show growth after several months of working on a skill, is a red flag.”

Parents of elementary students have a short time allotted to them for their conference with the teacher.

“It is best to be on time for your conference,” Reynolds said. “If the conference time doesn’t work, call the school before your scheduled time to reschedule. If you discover that you have something to discuss that will take longer than the allotted 15 minutes, schedule another time to meet to discuss the topic further.”

Once your student is out of elementary school, things work a little differently. Parent/teacher conferences are no longer scheduled. The school sets a time when grade cards can be picked up by parents and teachers are available for those who wish to speak with them. Some teachers offer extra credit to students whose parents check in.

Jennifer Shultz, a teacher at Benton High School in St. Joseph, has been teaching for 26 years. She believes parents are an integral part of the education process.

“They should be involved in what is happening in the classroom, both success and issues that need improved,” Shultz said. “Parents can often help change behavior problems in the classroom and monitor grades if they know their student is struggling.”

Communication between a parent and teacher is helpful if there is a sudden change in grades or behavior.

“Sometimes parents can let a teacher know about a stressful event going on in the student's life that could affect grades or emotional behaviors,” Shultz said of issues like  a divorce, a recent death in the family or a military member of the family being sent overseas. “By knowing what is going on, the teacher can help keep an eye on the student and offer them extra emotional support.”

Shultz said parents often are afraid to ask questions or express concerns.

“If you are upset with the teacher for some reason, don't approach the teacher in a confrontational manner,” she said. “We all have the same goal --helping the student succeed. Teachers want to work as a team with the parents.”

Another reason open communication is important is because parents typically only hear things from one perspective. Conferences give them a chance to talk to teachers and get their view of what is happening in the classroom.

“Not all teachers and students ‘click’,” said Jeremy Glenn, a parent of two students at Benton. “Just because one of your kids had a teacher in the past doesn’t mean the experience will be the same for the other.”

Taking time to visit with teachers at conferences is a great way to touch base and open the lines of communication. Every student’s needs and goals are unique. Working together will help ensure your student has all the tools necessary to succeed.

Things to discuss at conferences:

Student’s strengths

Areas to improve


Behavior concerns


Upcoming projects/tests