I was in the teaching profession and was exposed to the gurukul system of teaching for some time.
It was a new session. Young boys from nearby villages had just joined the gurukul. As per the rules, students in gurukul are required to stay in the hostel. One morning, a large number of boys approached the chief acharya (head) of the gurukul. They looked angry and the one in the centre had his head down. When asked why they were upset, one of them told the chief that the boy in the centre was caught by them stealing their things. Now they wanted him to be given exemplary punishment.
The chief after a pause turned to the boy, who had nothing to say. Raising the boy's head with his hand, the chief said, "My son, what you did is a sin. Perhaps you were not aware of this. But, now take a pledge that you won't do it again." The boy nodded in agreement and they all went back.
After a fortnight, the boy was again caught stealing articles. Agitated, the boys again approached the chief acharya and complained to him, "Acharyaji, he is again caught stealing our articles.
Please, either you throw him out of this place or we will be compelled to leave the school."
The chief remained unperturbed and after some thought he told the boys, "Dear disciples, if you believe that your interest is served better by leaving this gurukul, you can go, but as far as this boy is concerned, he will not go anywhere and will stay here."
Everyone present on the scene, including other acharyas, was taken aback with this unexpected reply from the chief, and one of them said, "Gurudev, your reply has put all of us in a tizzy. We shall be grateful if you could explain the rationale behind this move."
The chief acharya replied, "Listen, there are two reasons. First, if I throw this boy out, I know that no other school will take him with the taint he would carry, whereas the other boys would get admission in any school anywhere. This is the last thing I can accept. Second, if this boy has this bad habit, it is not his creation but is the impact of the environment where he stayed. My job as an acharya is to reform him and change him into a good citizen like the goldsmith who prepares ornaments by taking out the impurities from gold. I cannot abdicate my responsibility as the chief acharya."
On hearing this, the students started moving back to their classes and the one who was guilty had his eyes welled up. He fell at the acharya's feet and promised him not to let him down by repeating the mistake.
After some time, I joined a government job. Later, I came to know from my friends in the old school that the boy had done very well in studies and was now serving in the army.
It is rightly said that a mediocre teacher informs you, a good teacher explains, a superior teacher demonstrates and a great teacher inspires.