The Common Third
When two or more people share an experience, or work on a task together, something emerges that is not part of them and their mutual interrelationships. It is something external to them. (M Husen 2022). Originating in Denmark, The Common Third is a pedagogical approach which uses positive, authentic relationships as powerful catalysts for human development and work to use it purposefully rather than as an after-thought. The Common Third is a value that the school I have been working in has adopted as one of their main pedagogical approaches which is implemented across all of the classes in the school.
I think that the idea of The Common Third is a very beneficial idea that helps the students feel they are a part of the school community, which helps them find their place, firstly, within their class and, consequently, in the community.
I have experienced that by using a ‘common third’ element with my students and observing other teachers doing the same, many of the most anxious students are able to interact with others. The Michaelhusen concept takes the pressure and the focus off the students themselves and instead directs it to a project, object, or animal that can be the focus for the student and teacher alike.
One of the important elements to Michaelhusen’s pedagogical theory is that the edges between the teacher and the learner become blurred because the relationship is with something that neither has ultimately more power, say, nor decision over and each participant helps the other develop and gain knowledge. Shared discovery is a very important element of the theory which creates a shared experience to have together with the student.
Having so many experiences together, helps to build up a connection between the student and the teacher. They can relate to one another and therefore can work more effectively going forwards. In order to work one on one with my student I tried to create situations where we practiced the common third together. This really helped to build a relationship of learning with the student and also allowed her to feel more comfortable with me relatively quickly.
Building a connection is of the utmost importance when it comes to one on one work because of the intensity of the relationship, there needs to be a common understanding and dialogue in order to remain a healthy, working relationship. In order to enter into this kind of partnership each partner needs to be genuinely themselves and present, otherwise there is mistrust and the common entity will not succeed. In terms of teaching, building this genuine human connection is very powerful. It is when you have managed to hit the hearts of your students and then can work with them in order to move forwards.
From the very beginning of meeting my student we started to work together on a common project. I was able to meet her in her comfort zone, and little by little bring her out of it where she was able to learn and develop. By forging a genuine human connection I have been able to develop a relationship of love and demand with her, where we can both challenge the other in moments where we are not giving our all. This has grown over time, and now after five months this ability to demand from her is at its highest peak. I have got here by a series of common third activities which built up over time and often ran alongside her academic studies that needed to be adhered to in the school.