Hi, I'm extremely new to maya, and I see a lot of tutorials that have a button on the left, near the basic tools like scale,move,etc, and it opens up a window that shows the parents of things. I can't seem to find that button anywhere..what is it called and how can I use it? Thanks!
In the Toolbox on the left of your interface, by default there are a series of buttons under the transformation tools (move, scale, etc.) which change Maya's layout. This means they change the number and pattern of panels that are visible in the main window.
One of the buttons gives you the 'Persp / Outliner' layout, which puts the Outliner on the left and a large perspective view on the right. However, it's possible to configure these buttons differently, so maybe you don't see that one.
If you right-click on any of these buttons, a menu should pop up offering you all sorts of layout choices. Look for 'Persp / Outliner' in that list and choose it. When you do that, the 'Persp / Outliner' button will replace the layout button you right-clicked on.
Read up in the docs about interface basics. I know it's no fun to spend time reading about boring things like interface, but it will be time well spent, since you'll have a much easier time diving into the fun stuff.