A Story of Collaboration

Article written by Margot Kennedy

"Collaboration helps us to unlearn and makes us better teachers. When we approach our work with an attitude of humility, it removes tension, lowers the affective filter, and creates intentional partnerships. This sense of humility is empowering because it’s what allows us to learn from each other. And we know that collaboration is one of the most powerful forms of professional learning." - Nordmeyer, J. (2015) Collaboration: scaffolding student learning and teacher learning.

This is a story from the Panchatantra tales adapted to suit the theme:


Once upon a time in a jungle lived two good friends - the monkey and the elephant. One day an unusual quarrel broke between the two about what was better. While the elephant advocated it was better to be strong, the monkey was adamant that being fast and agile was better. Unable to resolve the matter, they headed to the wise owl and posed the same question to him. The owl promised to answer the question provided these two undertook a challenge.


Far away across the river, there was a tall tree and a golden fruit hung from it. It was next to impossible to get the fruit from that huge, tall tree. But the owl would answer the question only when he had the fruit.


So the monkey and the elephant set out on their journey to bring the fruit to the wise owl. When the monkey reached the banks of the river, he realised that the river was two deep for him and the currents too strong. The elephant saw his friend and asked the monkey to climb on his back and together they crossed the river. When they reached the tree, the elephant tried to fell the tree, but the tree was huge and wouldn’t budge. So the monkey climbed up the tree and plucked the fruit. He climbed down, sat on the elephant’s back and they returned to the wise owl.


The owl then asked, “Of the two of you, who brings this fruit to me?” The monkey said he did because he plucked the fruit from the tree and the elephant said that he did because he helped the monkey get onto the other side of the river.


The wise owl at this point stopped the argument and said, “Each one of you have your abilities and strengths. While one of you is not superior than the other and individually were not very effective, but collectively as a team, you have achieved the impossible. All because you used your strengths at the right time to do the right thing." A story telling brings together different points of view in the spirit of collaboration. And here, in reference, remembrance and recognition of Swami Shantimurti, a respected teacher and . . . . . a brilliant story teller. Shantimurti harnessed the power of storytelling to engage and connect with the audience, forging connections among people and between people and ideas. He used the power of a great story to empower others, to educate, inspire and build rapport.


The power of a great story can inspire, enliven and move an audience to take action and it can also change lives, bringing a sense of significance to our knowledge. Storytelling is a means of transmitting ideas from one person to another and when people absorb the information in a story, it stimulates the imagination and that results in discussions, ideas, creativity, new initiatives and vision. Storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques we have as humans to communicate and motivate, to connect and collaborate.


To hear a good story requires one of the easiest human gestures and also one of healing, and that is to listen. Listening is the foundation of engaging others, as well as of collaboration, creativity, integration and innovation. Listening requires us to expand our own narrative, to become more aware of our thoughts and emotions that can influence our perspective, and when we actively listen people feel included and it facilitates collaboration.


Collaboration is about compassion, support, kindness, connection and communiucation.