Nicole Chetty Gunter teaches for Chongshin University in Seoul. She is an active member of the Christian Teachers’ SIG.
How did you get connected with English language teaching in Korea?
I was finishing up my year working in Canada, when I realized that I wanted to continue traveling and working abroad. A couple of my friends back home taught in Korea so I knew that it was a good country to work in. As a licensed English teacher, I applied to the English Program in Korea (EPIK) to work in the public school system. My first teaching job was located in a small fishing town called Yeongdeok in Gyeongsangbuk-do.
How long have you been here?
I moved to Korea at the beginning of February 2013. After spending a year living in Yeongdeok, I then moved to Seoul and started working at Chongshin University, and I have been working there ever since.
What is the most challenging aspect of Korean culture for you?
Stepping out of my comfort zone into a completely foreign culture was challenging. As a young South African with little travel experience, my initial response to the culture was in fact ‘shock’. Culture shock can sometimes leave you feeling overwhelmed and lost while at the same time feeling curious and excited. Although there is a growing population of foreigners in Korea, there are times when it seems like I am standing out like a sore thumb, while at other times I feel like I am completely lost in the crowd. However, after my first few months I realized these feelings are normal and if I was willing to understand rather than judge and embrace the differences then I could have a more positive experience here.
What aspects of Korean culture do you particularly enjoy?
Every culture has its own unique set of qualities and I enjoy how family-oriented the Korean culture is. I particularly admire their respect for the elderly and appreciate the strong sense of community present here. People are always willing to share. Koreans love to share everything, especially food, so you will never go hungry!
What other ministries are you a part of?
Currently, I am an active member at New Harvest Ministry in Seoul and I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to serve at our church. Last year I volunteered with our North Korean ministry. The program focuses on teaching conversational English to North Korean expats who are preparing for their university entrance exams. It was such a rewarding experience to watch two of the students who I worked with get accepted into prominent universities in Seoul. My husband and I are also small group leaders. We enjoy working with people and are passionate to see the church live in community. We also serve in the new members ministry, where we have the privilege of welcoming new members into the church. We love serving God together and make a great team!
How do you connect your faith to your teaching?
Chongshin is a Christian university. More importantly, it is a university that has a strong focus on Christian values and we are encouraged to live out our faith on a daily basis. I am fortunate to work in an environment that regularly encourages me to align my faith to my teaching. Personally, I believe teaching is a vocation as such, it would be impossible to exclude my faith from my teaching. When I walk into my classroom everyday, I believe this is exactly where God wants me to be and that knowledge drives me to not only teach with integrity but also remain cognizant of the responsibilities that I have as a Christian English teacher. I believe that as teachers who are Christians, we must continue to effectively model the life of Jesus Christ in engaging ways that lead to personal transformation of our students’ lives and challenge them to a life of discipleship.
Do you think there is a Christian way to teach English?
Yes, I do believe there is a Christian way to teach English. Firstly, as a teacher who is a Christian, I see my job as a calling and this inevitably leads me to value every student in my classroom, and more importantly, knowing that God is helping me, help my students.
Secondly, as a Christian my faith reminds me that I am in continuous fellowship with my students. This knowledge motivates me to build a safe and supportive environment for my students. Teaching English as a second language can be incredibly frustrating, and I have discovered that many of my students are often reluctant to participate in class activities because of the fear of failure. As such, when I provide a safe and supportive environment, my students feel encouraged to participate in classroom activities.
Lastly, as a Christian I have been mandated to make disciples of all nations and I truly believe that I have the privilege of discipling my students on a daily basis. Last semester I had my students keep updated journals for the Reading and Writing classes. Every week they would make an entry based on various topics that I provided and I would then give feedback to every student. The students were naturally reluctant at first but at the end, almost every student believed that the reflective process helped them grow in many ways. Watching the personal transformation of my students’ lives was a priceless gift.
Have you heard about the CELT conference happening in Seoul next spring? Click on the links below for more information.