I have seen that smile many times but it is magical every time I see it.
Was in a Pratham class in Seelampur, Delhi. A young lady, Rashmi, was teaching several girls, who were in Std 4-5. She had read out a story to the girls and they were discussing it. But half the class was quiet, and the other half participating. Rashmi said that the quiet girls did not know reading. They could read words with difficulty. The quiet girls were looking at me. So, I asked, "Did you hear the story?". They nodded slowly. They said they knew the names of the people in the story and they also knew there was a donkey in it. They knew there was talk about mangoes and chaat. So they knew many words on the story.
I told the girls, who apparently did not know how to read, to step outside the class with their story sheets and try to read the first paragraph carefully. They were to look at each word and then try to read the sentence to themselves till it made sense. I also told another teacher, Asha, to step out with the group. She was to help them in reading words only if the girls asked her, but not otherwise. The girls were told that when any one of them felt that she could read the first paragraph well, she could come in to the class and read it out.
As I chatted with the remaining girls in the class I could see the group outside concentrating on the text with fingers under the words. Occasionally they asked for help. After about fifteen minutes, I heard commotion outside and a bright smiling face. "Beena wants to read to you!", said the excited Asha. The 'insiders' were very curious. Will Beena be able to read????
Beena walked in and sat down with her book. She looked at everyone and... started reading!! When she was done, the remaining class froze for a fraction of second and broke out into a huge applause. Rashmi could not believe this. "But Sir, I swear she could not read more than just words. And this was just a little before you came!". Beena was taking in the compliments. She was quiet, and had that far away look as she smiled to herself.
There was more commotion and in came KumKum. I had asked her to read earlier and had seen that she struggle with every word. She read very softly so as to hide her mistakes. KumKum too had that smile that Beena had come in with. Everyone waited as she cleared her throat. And then, in a loud and strong voice, with her fingers stressing each word, KumKum read the passage. Applause! Applause!!
Now KumKum and Beena shared a smile as they looked at each other.
I have seen these smile many times. They say, "We too can!". It is such a lovely smile. Wish I had taken a picture.