When teachers invite other teachers into their classrooms they create the possibility for substantial growth and change in their instructional practice. They also create the possibility for substantial growth and change in the instructional practice of the teachers and coaches that they invite into their classroom. It's easy to see how the teacher being observed or coached can become the focus of the teacher learning; it can be harder to see how much is learned by those doing the observing and coaching.
We've been fortunate to work with groups of math teacher leaders who are simultaneously inviting teachers to view their teaching in order to improve their instructional practice, learning from observing other teachers, and looking forward to how they will support their colleagues in improving their practice through mutual observation.
Occasionally, during the second and third phases of the Cycle, Peer and Student Rehearsals, teachers will chose to participate as observers rather than rehearsing teachers. One teacher commented, "It was really refreshing to 'just coach' and not rehearse. In a weird way, I feel like I learned just as much (if not more) by watching other people." This teacher valued the perspective and insight he gained through observing and supporting his colleagues.
We often think of a coach as an expert who has answers to share with others. Expertise is part of the picture, but coaches and observers also have the privilege of viewing from the sidelines. This distance allows for a level of reflection and contemplation that is not possible in the midst of the action. By temporarily moving to the sidelines, teachers can gain powerful insight that enhances their ability to notice and act when they are back in the action of their classroom.