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A Day in the Life: Education trailblazer Claire Amos

Claire Amos is the principal of Albany Senior High School, helped establish and facilitate DisruptED (an online community for educators interested in leading change) and is on the board of NetsafeNZ and 21C Skills Lab. Here's how she gets through the day, how she organises her time and how she handles the madness of the education sector. 

What time do you wake up?

Usually 4am on the dot. But in terms of waking up and getting up, usually 5am throughout the week and 6.00 on the weekend. I have always been an early bird. 

What kind of work do you do?

I am Principal of Albany Senior High School so my day to day job is leading a school. This involves a lot of team meetings, strategic planning and getting out around the school at least once a day. I also helped establish and help facilitate DisruptED (an online community for educators interested in leading change) and am on the board of NetsafeNZ and 21C Skills Lab.

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

Get up at 5.00, head to a Pilates class at 5.30. Get home and make soft boiled eggs on toast and a cup of tea and sit down and check in on social media. All of which happens in the glorious quiet before the family gets up at 7.00. I admit part of the appeal of being an early bird is also getting some alone time to get me in the right space for the day. Also if I don’t exercise first thing I know the chances are I won’t exercise at all.


What’s your media consumption or interaction like – which podcasts, radio, videos, books, magazines, and new sites do you read or listen to?

I’m a media and social media junkie. I love listening to Radio NZ, often finding myself stuck in my car waiting until the end of an interview. I enjoy videos I stumble upon via social media and my reading habits are a genuine mixture of high and low. I really enjoy the Medium website. I love the ability to curate what I engage with and really enjoy its future-focused bent. I am a massive consumer of fashion and design magazines and whilst I have tried digital versions nothing beats curling up with a physical magazine and a cup of tea or glass of wine. I read every day, my bedside table and Kindle are similarly jammed up with books I have read and hope to read. My reading is divided between light fiction (love Elin Hilderbrand) and educational and leadership books (and working through Four-dimensional Education by Bernie Trilling, Charles Fadel, and Maya Bialik and Dare to Lead by Brene Brown). 

What do you think is unique about the way you approach your work? 

I am pretty transparent and a massive externaliser (pity the people in my shared office). I am also someone who thrives on having fingers in many pies. I think I have become pretty good at being efficient whilst also maintaining a focus on collaboration and co-design. I am also willing to shift my thinking based on feedback whilst maintaining a pretty unerring focus on moving forward towards a shared vision. I am an oversharer when it comes to my educational thinking (and my outfits of the day 😂). Too often I think people feel they need ideas to be fully formed and proven before they share them. I have learned that people value understanding your thought processes and I know by sharing my thinking via blogs and social media posts (even if they are in a total draft state) it has often helped others and has led to gaining feedback and ideas that improve and enrich ideas and outcomes. 

What responsibility do you have in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?

 Well I’m a principal so the buck really stops with me when it comes to the performance of our school, the quality of the teaching and learning and the wellbeing of our students and staff. But luckily it is a genuinely collaborative effort. Much of my time is spent meeting with our school leaders and teachers and ensuring they have the support and guidance they need to support their teams. I also like to meet with our whole staff once a week and like to do a “walkabout” around the school at least once a day to check in and chat with staff and students in a more informal capacity. 

Where do your best ideas come from?

Everywhere! I am a magpie. I particularly enjoy going to non-education networking events as I think school leaders must look beyond education and across the world of work and all areas of innovation if they have a chance of future-proofing our schools.  I get ideas from what I read, what I watch, talking with colleagues and catching up with a wide range of “critical friends” over coffee or a drink. Clarity often strikes me at about 4am. I go to bed ridiculously early so I don’t mind that quiet headspace at 4am where I often find ideas come together. It’s often when I find myself writing blog posts in my head or fleshing out ideas into strategies. I always keep a notebook next to my bed in case I need to capture thoughts at that time. 

What does resilience look like to you? 

Recognising when things have become too much and doing something to address it. Being an educator (or just a human) can be bloody hard at times. To me resilience is recognising when “the cheese is about to slip off the cracker” and then formulating a plan to recalibrate. This might be recognising that commitments mean the next few days are going to be massively hard/tiring/stressful but then planning for whatever is needed to rebalance, whether it be alone time, seeking out time with friends, spending time with the family or whatever you need. I am a yes-person by nature and I have realised saying yes has led to amazing opportunities and connections, but if you are going to welcome overwork with open arms you also need to have strategies at the ready to address the inevitable moments of physical and emotional strain that comes with seizing “all the opportunities”. 

What has been the most transformational business practice you’ve implemented at your work?

Better done than perfect and only handling emails once. If it can be done now, I do it. If it doesn’t need to be overworked or collaborated on, I just get it done there and then. Not having to come back to emails and recognising that ideas can be shared in a pretty raw state can be pretty liberating. Also co-designing strategies and then trusting others to do their job! Not being a micromanager empowers your staff and gives you the time and space to focus on the big picture.

What social or environmental issues inform the work you do, as well as what you’re aiming to do with your company’s overall vision? 

Social justice and equitable outcomes for all is a massive driver in everything we do. At Albany Senior High School our vision states that “we nurture each other, we inspire each other, we empower each other to achieve highly and be good citizens”. We also have the mantra “It is not if you are bright, it is how you are bright”. In order to realise this vision and mantra we need to create an environment and an approach to teaching and learning that is inclusive and absolutely fit for purpose for the changing world in which our young people live. Universal design for learning is a focus for us at the moment and continuing to commit to a day a week to project based learning (Impact Projects) are two ways we supporting our young people to have the skills and competencies they need to thrive in an age of exponential change whilst also having the opportunity to engage in powerful learning that goes beyond NCEA. 

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

To be honest, I love it all. I love my early mornings dedicated to self care and alone time. I love the crazy/busy/challenging/social aspect of every school day. I love coming home and sitting in the spa with my kids and hearing all about their days and sitting down for dinner with family. I love crashing on the couch with a magazine  and a glass of wine. I also love going to bed to (pretend to) read.

What about the least enjoyable?

None really. Sometimes I wish there was more time or a parallel universe so I also had more energy and time to catch up with friends and/or have more dates with the husband. The crazy busy nature of the job is the best part but can be the most challenging when you want to invest in work, family, friends and find time for self-care!

What’s your best productivity hack?

Going to bed early so waking up at 4am to process and getting out of 5am to get prepared for the day and still get 7-8 hours sleep. I think commitment to sleep might actually be my ultimate productivity hack. 

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful businessperson and a good mother/partner/friend?

Yes you can but only if you sign up to the mantra of better done than perfect, and that goes for entertaining, housework, wife-ing and work! I have an amazing husband who has always been a genuine partner when it comes to our kids and home life, I don’t pretend to be a supermum or domestic goddess and I refuse to apologise for occasionally putting work first. I am more than happy to skimp on the housework, serve up quick and easy dinners and organise a potluck or a cheap and cheerful dinner out if it means that it creates time and space to hang out with my family or friends. You can always do better, but on the whole I think I am providing a pretty kickass role model for my two daughters and am still pretty good at connecting with and appreciating my husband, family and friends. 

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?


Kick off my less than sensible shoes. Pour a glass of wine. Flick through a fashion mag. I try and create a bit of space for my family when I get home, have dinner, hang in the spa and then we all retreat to our own corners of the house. I often check back in online, do a bit of work as needed then happily fall into bed at around 8.30. I don’t beat myself up about switching off, I have a pretty epic work life blend - the lines are blurred and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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