Coaching Moments

"Coaching Moments" takes a
thoughtful, and sometimes lighthearted, look at how coaching
can be interwoven into our daily lives. 

When the birds come
by Janice Hunter

Coaching moments have a wonderful way of finding us in the
most unexpected of places. Recently I learned an important
lesson about certification at my kitchen sink. 

I love the view from our kitchen window and often linger
over the dishes, my hands dripping floral scented bubbles.
Beyond our tiny strip of laurel covered fence, crows circle
and roost in ancient Scots pines that sway in the breeze,
revealing glimpses of heather clad hills and open sky

The laurels are usually teaming with birds and I’ve grown to
recognize their voices. I could watch for hours as they
party in the dripping branches after warm rain on summer
days. In the winter, I'm very choosy about the wild bird
food I put out and my kids tease me mercilessly. But the
robin definitely prefers the fat and berry food! I swear he
looked annoyed when I changed to a seed mix. Wouldn't touch
it. Some days he sits on the window ledge as he eats
breadcrumbs and bobs his head at me if I'm standing very
still. On grey days, he appears like a flash of Christmas in
the bushes if I'm jaded or sad. 

But one weekend a few months ago, we had
a late frost here in Scotland. The garden stood white and silent,
the ground hard and unforgiving. My son had to do some
weekend bird spotting for one of his Cub Scout badges. One
hour and a list of boxes to tick off. But no sight of the
plump blackbird with his yellow beak or the dunnock
scurrying in the undergrowth like a little brown chicken.
Even the woodpigeons must have been cuddling up somewhere else. I felt almost let
down by the bully boy starlings who usually arrive in a
squawking gang and the brave little blue tits who swing on
the peanut feeders and do dog fight manoeuvres to avoid the

But most of all, I missed the robin. Freezing or not, I'd
expected him to appear on the fence and was disappointed
because he didn't. I felt cheated because he spends hours
there every day, long, undocumented hours convincing me that
being present in the moment is the key to all my joy and
wisdom. My whole view of the world changed because my son
had some boxes to tick and a one hour session to do it in.

They came back a few days later, dozens of them so my son was happy. He reckoned that handing
in a full list a few days late was better than handing in an
empty sheet. I was critiquing a colleague's exam tape the other day and
thought of my boy and the robin. When we’re recording
sessions for an exam, sometimes our coaching skills simply don't show up. Maybe that’s because we’re bird
watching with a tick sheet and a clock. My robin would
probably just tell me to wash dishes and enjoy the garden.
That's when the birds come.

Janice Hunter
is a former translator and teacher who is
currently working towards IAC certification as an excuse to
avoid the kids, housework and trips to the hairdresser. She
can be contacted at

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