I've finished 18 out of 19 parent conferences (and yes, I'm aware of how very, very lucky I am to only have 19 students). Every year I dread the conferences. I do so because of the time it takes to schedule them, get translators, confirm everything, prepare for them, etc. This year stressed me out even more because I will be out of town for the allotted conference days so I met with parents before school, after school, and during planning time. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to this drain on my time.
And every year, once conferences get started I remember how much I love them. It's only my 10th year of teaching, surely someday I'll remember this before conferences get started.
I learn so much about my students from these conferences. I find out that they love math this year, spend all their free time on a scooter, do martial arts, play bells at church, or write stories on a book's website. I learn about their families; baby siblings, extended families living together, parents who are divorced and the child has no contact with a father who abused my student's sister. I hear how the parents view their child, the learning, and how the year is progressing. Typically, we are seeing the same things, but occasionally I am shocked by things I learn: a student who can't stand reading (never saw that in class), a student who never stops talking at home (but is very shy and quiet at school), a student who has never liked school starting in kindergarten (but seems happy in class and seems to enjoy her work and friends).
I walk away from these conferences feeling like I'm part of a team. The parents and I are working together with the students to make fifth grade a great year.
I hope the parents get even half as much out of these meetings as I do.