Susan Boyle – Success Story
Born when her mother was 47,Boyle was briefly deprived of oxygen during the difficult birth; she was diagnosed as having learning difficulties. She says she was bullied as a child, and was nicknamed “Susie Simple” at school. After leaving school with few qualifications, she was employed for the only time in her life as a trainee cook in the kitchen of West Lothian College for six months, and took part in government training schemes. She visited the theater from time to time to listen to professional singers, and performed at a number of local venues. Boyle took singing lessons early in her life. But people were apparently more interested in mocking her.
Britain’s Got Talent
In August 2008, Susan Boyle applied for an audition for the third series of Britain’s Got Talent, and was accepted after a preliminary audition. Her performances in Britain’s Got Talent were widely reported, and tens of millions of people watched a video of her singing on YouTube. Boyle was “absolutely gobsmacked” by the strength of this reaction. She was aware that the audience on the show was initially hostile to her because of her appearance, but she has refused to change her image.
Everybody agree that her performance was heart-touching, thrilling and uplifting. With her angelic voice she touched
the interest and attention of millions around the world. But some questions remain to be answered.
- What do we learn from this story?
- Why couldn’t such a beautiful voice reach fame before?
- How can one succeed in a hostile environment?
- What about our global culture which focuses on appearance and disdains the inner strength?
- How many of the super stars are successful only because of their physique not thanks to their brains?
There is no doubt that Boyle’s story is a modern parable and a rebuke to people’s tendency to judge others based on their physical appearance. This sharp contrast between the audience’s low expectations and the quality of her singing made Boyle’s performance such an engaging piece of television and awoke our conscience to our flaws in judging people by the shape of their physique rather than their intellectual potential.
There is a parallel between this story and Pygmalion Effect in education. Good or bad, what teachers expect from students they generally get. Unfavorable expectations could lead to a corresponding decrease in performance. Often, these negative expectations are based on appearances and other factors that have little to do with actual intellectual ability. Susan Boyle was first judged by her physique. Fortunately she had her chance to prove her potential. How many of our students need that glimpse of light, an opportunity to disclose their inner strength that teachers don’t simply see! Labeling our students according to modern society’s measures of success is simply the worst we can offer them. We shouldn’t allow our students to fail just because of lack of opportunities. Likewise we must reconsider our unfavorable expectations towards our students
It is also a success story, the fact that an ordinary woman in her late 40s without movie-star looks can still get a break and make her dreams come true.
“I expected people to be a wee bit cynical,” she says. “But I decided to win them round. That is what you do. They didn’t know what to expect. Before Britain’s Got Talent, I had never had a proper chance. It’s as simple as that. You just have to keep going and take one step at a time and one day you will make it. You just don’t give up.”
Failure is the stepping stone for success. This is a lesson we don’t want our students to miss. Falling down does not signify failure but staying there does. Boyle’s story, representing talent overcoming adversity and poverty, is an example of courage and perspiration.