Zsófia Alibaux-Jakab began her career at Britannica International School in 1999 as a French teacher and then started to teach English as an Additional Language (EAL) to various levels and age groups. Her interests include horse riding, motorcycling, reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two sons.
Thanks for talking with us today, Zsofia! To start, tell us a little about yourself as an educator and what classes and grade levels you teach.
I am the Head of Secondary and EAL [English as an Additional Language, similar to ESL or English as a Second Language - Ed.] and Mother Tongue Coordinator in an international school in Budapest, Hungary. I started teaching in 1999 at this very same school, then moved to France in 2004 and continued teaching in an international school there, then moved back to Hungary in 2011 to teach again at my former school.
I currently teach Year 8 to 11 (grades 7 to 10). I am a passionate educator and a lifelong learner, always eager to learn more and try out new things.
How has Classcraft changed the way your students view coming to class?
It had a tremendous impact. I was desperate to find anything that would bring Dungeons & Dragons to the class. I’ve tried to devise my own resources in my early days of teaching, but it needed a platform and didn’t quite work out.
Last school year, I did a Google search and found Classcraft. It was unbelievable. I started using it with my Year 9 French class, where I had some disengaged students, and it worked its magic. Students were a bit skeptical at first, but some of them were really enthusiastic and got into it straight away. This class has been playing now for the second year, and we stuck to their characters.
The atmosphere of the class has changed. Now coming to class is like an adventure, with its surprises. The daily event starts the lesson, and some events are really popular, like the “Feast of the King,” or making the Gamemaster sing. They have a lot of fun too using their powers. Classcraft also helps them work together and apply positive peer pressure. I’m planning to use more classes with Classcraft soon.
Have you found other ways to foster positive student attitudes toward learning and attending class?
I always try to put the student at the center of the learning happening in class. I know some of my students pretty well, their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and I always try to have a positive and supportive atmosphere in class. I also like to lead by example, and being a lifelong learner myself, I hope to give some of this passion to my students.
There is also always a second chance with me, whether it’s retaking a test or handing in an assignment again. Also, I strive to include fun elements in my lessons. Classcraft definitely adds to this, as we have major fun with some of the events and powers!
Why is it so important for students to want to learn and make the most of school?
Without an inner desire to learn, there is no real deep learning happening. It is challenging to motivate students and infuse in them a love of learning, or make them the masters of their own learning. The intrinsic desire to learn is vital, and this is why schools — and teachers — have such an important role.
It is this passion for learning that students need to come and pick up at school because learning never stops throughout their whole lifetime. They need to see their school diploma not as an end point but as the beginning of more learning to come.
Do you have any advice for teachers who are struggling to instill positive attitudes in their students?
I would encourage them to try out strategies that would work for them as students. To try and see how the students feel in their class. Teachers need to be constantly developing themselves and their strategies to keep up with our fast-paced world.
There is a lot to learn from students, too! Positive attitudes start with a teacher who can have positive relationships with students. When a student is confidently going to class, without fear or negative feelings, then learning can happen. It’s important to create an environment that’s safe and allows for mistakes to happen.