SIKESTON -- Colder weather and falling leaves aren't just a sign of autumn's arrival. They're also the sign of another season -- it's one schools refer to as parent-teacher conferences.
New Madrid County Central Schools will hold their conferences Oct. 10, and according to assistant superintendent Bill Nance, it's the perfect time for the teacher and parent to get to know one another better.
"It's very important for a teacher and parent to get together to discuss the strengths and concerns on both ends," Nance explained.
During a typical conference, a report is given to the parent. Academic progress is one of the main concerns talked about, but anything can be discussed, Nance pointed out.
"My concern, from an administrative standpoint, is we feel this first conference is very important," Nance said. "Parents should try to attend because it gives a good start to the school year, and if they're child is having any problems, it can turn be turned around."
Scott County Central Superintendent Jo Anne Northern noted the big focus of conferences is parents establishing a relationship with their child's teacher.
"That is vital to a child's success," Northern said. "Sometimes there are issues in home life or issues a teacher may not know about that a parent can enlighten them on during the conference. Then they can correct or help a child to excel."
Getting that background information is important, Northern said. A lot of times teachers don't have a background to a child so they don't know what they're facing at home, she explained.
Conferences also provide an opportunity for parents to inquire about their children's learning environment and things children aren't reporting to their parents.
"If you're not hearing anything or seeing any progress reports or papers, I think that would be sign that something is wrong. Or if your child isn't talking about school, especially as they get older, it may be something you want to ask their teacher about," Northern suggested.
Throughout the conference, parents can raise any concerns such as what is expected in class, Nance said, adding that it's the perfect time for a parent to ask "What can I do as a parent to help my child have a successful year?"
Homework is a common topic brought up during conferences, Nance said.
"As you get older in upper grades, of course more is required," Nance said. "Children are going to have homework at times at any grade. So if it gets to a point where children never bring a book home or don't have any extra work, parents may want to check with the teacher or ask the child."
Parents should talk to their children about their goals, Northern said. And if the parents aren't talking, parents can look to the Internet for some help.
"A lot of times, teachers have their own home Web pages where they post daily assignments and upcoming tests," Northern pointed out.
Also e-mailing teachers might be an option.
"Phone calls are always good, but I think in today's world other avenues are becoming a little more accepted," Northern said. "Parents are busy so an e-mail may work for them."
While there tends to be more parental participation on the elementary end, conferences are important at any age child, said the administrators.
"We try to concentrate on the elementary end, but we encourage parents that teachers for grades 6-12 will be working in their classrooms Oct. 10. So if parents have any concerns, they should call the school and set up an appointment," Nance said.
Once the conferences are over, everyone feels better, noted East Prairie R-2 Superintendent Scott Downing.
"Most parents and teachers are able to see what they can actually do to help the children progress," Downing said. "And it's also important to have that relationship between the teachers and parents so they feel they can contact one another if needed."
East Prairie's parent-teacher conferences will be Oct. 23-24. Scott Central's conferences are scheduled for Oct. 16 for grades K-12.
But the main thing to remember is the conferences are about the children, Northern said.
"Whether they're 8 or 18, parents need to remember they're still kids and need guidance and support," Northern said. "And if anything else, attending the conference shows their child they care and want them to do good in school."