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Online Professional Development Workshop – Small Schools in Rural Areas 2022

The Small Schools in Rural Areas online professional development workshop addressed the challenges of educators in remote schools. The workshop took place from 27 to 29 April 2022 and involved more than 100 participants from 35 eTwinning countries.

On the first day, a representative from the eTwinning Central Support Service introduced the theme of “eTwinning and Rural Schools: Challenges and Contributions”, discussing the concepts of urbanisation, deruralisation, and isolation and linking them with the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027. In the first keynote, Valerie Lewis, Educational Policy and Development Officer at Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), introduced us to the Take 1 Programme, which aims to encourage inclusive engagement with education for sustainable development throughout the school environment.

The second keynote was delivered by Agata Butarewicz-Głowacka, Assistant Professor at the Department of Comparative Education, Faculty of Education, University of Bialystok. She presented theoretical assumptions of peer mentoring and raised awareness of the role and importance of peer mentoring in schools. Agata also shared her experience of implementing peer mentoring for refugee children.

The day closed with a networking activity where participants were split into small groups and had to discuss the most common challenges that schools in rural areas face. The input we received was impressive. How can we turn challenges into opportunities? Collaboration among schools, parental involvement, outdoor learning, mobility programs, and peer mentoring were some of the ideas that were brought up.

The second day started with the third keynote by Flavio Conti, Deputy Team Leader at the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD). The presentation addressed digital strategies in rural communities. It was a policy-oriented keynote that, among other things, informed participants about investment and funding opportunities that can benefit rural schools.

On the third day, we explored the internationalisation of a small school through eTwinning and Erasmus with Vittoria Volteranni, a primary school teacher and eTwinning ambassador since 2013. Vittoria discussed the multidimensional path that a school needs to follow for its Europeanisation, and shared her personal experience.

Finally, three active eTwinners presented their own experiences and achievements. In particular, Marketa Jurkova, a primary school teacher from Czechia, shared some examples of activities for multi-age classrooms. Ziad Al Yazijeen, a chemistry teacher from Jordan, briefly described how he involved parents in supporting the students in their activities. Lastly, Simoni Photiou, a primary school teacher from Cyprus, analysed the teaching methods and tools she uses for her multi-age classrooms.

The workshops for this online event analysed a variety of topics to ensure that participants would acquire an array of ideas and knowledge in relation to the development of rural schools. Some topics included teacher training for multi-age classrooms, older students as mentors, examples of student agencies, educational opportunities, bringing science to rural schools, and more. Emphasis was put on the integration of refugee children through mentoring and improving the school climate by involving pupils as agents of change.

All in all, after this 3-day event, we reached the conclusion that teaching in remote areas has numerous challenges. Should this hold them back? Absolutely not! The beauty of challenges teaches us how to become problem-solvers, and be more creative and open-minded. We trust in your superpowers as teachers and hope to have helped you in your difficult work through this online workshop.