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Calming coronavirus concerns on campus | News, Sports, Jobs

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Mike Igoe, communications professor at SUNY Fredonia, leads a class through distance learning.

Like most colleges and universities around the United States, my campus, the State University of New York at Fredonia, sent its students home and moved to online learning. Obviously, a lot of the attention has been focused on logistical considerations and making sure the technology is up to the challenge. But as we continue this Coronavirus counterattack, I feel it’s important that we not overlook the anxieties of our students.

Early on, this social media posting from one of my students pretty much identifies some of the things many of them probably were thinking:

“I love college, I love my job, I love my friends, I love my professors, I love my opportunities and on and on. … I don’t love having to switch to online schooling. I’m a production student, I can’t learn a TV studio online. I see the likelihood of having to graduate late because of this. Because of lack of experience and because I am a hands-on learner and because I can’t handle more than one online class and the lack of ability to physically talk to my teachers.

“I’m missing the chances I have to spend two last months with my seniors, to make two more months of memories with my friends, two more months of experience with my job etc. etc.

“This isn’t fun for me. I know that a lot of people don’t understand that but I’m saying it, going home suddenly and unexpectedly is not something that will ever be fun. I love home, but I also love this stupid little home away from home.”

I anticipated anxieties like this when state Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the SUNY and CUNY campuses would be shutting down. That word came just a day before I would see my students for the last time. Suddenly they realized things in their changing life would often be dramatically different. Here are the concerns of another student:

“I also have three younger siblings 6, 5 and 2 years old, which take a lot of time out of a day. As happy as I am to be home, it is very concerning that my school work will suffer because I have to watch them. (My mom is a single mother who really needs my help during this time as well)”

Sadly, some of my pupils have unpleasant home situations that they’d rather not return to. The ones who chatted with me didn’t always give particulars, but they didn’t have to. The look in their eyes said it all.

The night before I would see my students in person for the last time, I gave a lot of thought about what to say to them. My decision became a simple one. The best thing I could offer was a sense of calmness. Ironically, I had just recently taught about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” speech delivered during the dark days of World War II. Turns out my approach of emulating the late President’s message was the right call.

After classes, several students thanked me for a reassuring demeanor. They mentioned that some of my colleagues were ranting on about the governor’s decision to shut down the physical classrooms or complaining about the ways the preparations were handled. That was not the time to add to student’ already heightened anxiousness.

Perhaps some of my real-life experiences prepared me to be “the voice of reason”. My parents were alive during World War II. In fact, my dad served with the Coast Guard. When I was growing up, they shared many stories of coping with a serious situation in everyday life. My college years were the times of the Vietnam War. I received number 12 in the draft lottery. As an 18-year-old man, I would have been fighting a war in a faraway land except that President Richard Nixon pulled the United States out of that conflict. Fortunately, I never had to put down my books and pick up a soldier’s gun. And in my television news years, before I became a “scholarly professor,” I covered 9-11.

Most college students weren’t even alive at the time at the time of 9-11. Until the coronavirus came along, this generation has never really experienced a national hardship. Yet now they are quickly finding out the many ways it’s impacting them beyond their academic life. Most of my students need to work. Upon arriving home, they discover they’re competing with adults who’ve either lost jobs or had their hours reduced. Just a few more worries to the adjustment period.

Thankfully, the new arrangements came into play just as we were about to begin our spring break. It gave the students a chance.to get somewhat settled. On week later it begins — the world of online learning. Even with the abundant training our faculty and staff received on the technology tools to tap into, I’m sure almost everyone had apprehensions about what was to come. Again, I was determined to bring a sense of calmness to the live online classroom. My mission: keep it light without sacrificing the seriousness of what I was teaching. Some of the upcoming moments did the job for me!

Of course, my first online class had a slight problem because I forgot to click on one of the buttons to be heard. As I struggled with the technology, one of my students clicked a shot and sent out an Instagram with the message, “Someone help out Mike Igoe!” Once that was solved, I was studying the array of video boxes of students in front of me. The students were getting a kick out of seeing their classmates in various settings around the state.

One young woman was in a hunting lodge with deer heads on the wall. Another sat on her bed with legs crossed. With the video boxes and the way in which students were all interacting with each other, it was reminiscent of the opening to the old “Brady Bunch” TV program.

There were several other moments which provided the lighter touch I had hoped to attain. This one’s probably my favorite. In one of the video boxes, we suddenly heard what we thought was a loud wail. The class became silent and a student quickly ran out of frame. When she returned, I asked what had happened. She informed me her mother was singing loudly in the kitchen. I seriously thought the sound was an animal in pain!

Of course, in the remaining weeks of the semester, there undoubtedly will be experiences which are not amusing. For sure there will be challenges. But we as teachers need to look beyond the technology and the circumstances. It is our duty to try and deliver an online experience that’s as close as possible to what would normally take place in the classroom. Perhaps more than ever we need to be nurturing without sacrificing any of the standards of learning we’re trying to share. Just as important ,we should remember that for at least part of a student’s day in these challenging times we can provide the stability, guidance, and leadership which will hopefully make a difference in their futures.

Now if only I can remember to click on all the right computer buttons so they can hear me!

Mike Igoe is an assistant professor of communication at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

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Firefox owner Mozilla cuts one-quarter of global workforce, including Canadian jobs

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TORONTO – The not-for-profit company behind the free Firefox web browser and a growing number of internet privacy products is cutting about 250 people from its global workforce, including an undisclosed number in Canada.

Mozilla Corp. co-founder and chief executive Mitchell Baker announced that it would cease operations in Taipei, Taiwan, and begin notifying affected employees in other countries.

Its press office wouldn’t provide details of how the cuts will affect Mozilla’s individual offices, which include locations in Toronto and Vancouver.

However, an emailed message from the California-based company says the job cuts will affect about one-quarter of Mozilla’s workforce, which will drop to about 750 people.

In addition, about 60 people will be reassigned or change teams.

Mozilla says it plans to transfer its security and privacy products from Firefox to a new products and operations team that will develop new revenue streams.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2020.

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Valley Isle Sports In Brief | News, Sports, Jobs

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165-pound marlin wins Hanapaa event

The Maui Trailer Boat Club’s 36th annual Hanapa’a north shore fishing tournament on Aug. 1 was won by a 165-pound marlin hauled in by the boat Gyotaku.

This year’s title sponsor was Maui Sporting Goods. The tournament is the club’s annual fundraiser with a portion of the funds being used to support the community fish aggregating device program. The FADs are anchored off shore and attract fish so fisherman have a known destination to go to with a higher probability to catch fish.

Donations for the program can be sent to Maui Trailer Boat Club, P.O. Box 1666, Kahului 96732. For more information, call Ben Walin at 250-7687.

Haiku’s Greenley aces No. 7 at MCC

Tom Greenley of Haiku scored his second career hole in one on the par-3, 138-yard seventh hole at Maui Country Club on Wednesday.

He used a 5-iron and his playing partners were Junko Sugimura and Ted Kanamori.

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Debenhams to cut 2,500 more jobs amid pandemic

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Struggling department store group Debenhams says it will cut 2,500 more jobs as it struggles to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

This is on top of the 4,000 announced since May, meaning the retailer will have cut a third of its workforce.

The cuts will be mainly across its UK stores and distribution centre, but it said no new shops were slated to shut.

Debenhams said the current trading environment for retailers was still “a long way from returning to normal”.

In April, the firm fell into administration for the second time in a year as coronavirus heaped pressure on the business.

Earlier this year, it said 20 of its stores would remain permanently closed because of the impact of the pandemic.

Debenhams said on Tuesday: “Such difficult decisions are being taken by many retailers right now, and we will continue to take all necessary steps to give Debenhams every chance of a viable future.

“We have to ensure our store costs are aligned with realistic expectations,” it added.

The chain said that people affected had been informed and thanked them for their “service and commitment”.

“We have successfully reopened 124 stores post-lockdown, and these are currently trading ahead of management expectations,” it said.

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