RefinED Character is an educational consulting company specializing in social emotional development for preK-12 and collegiate communities.


A Ball of String and a Sword

Posted by Scott Heydt on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 Under: Why Social Emotional Education?


A popular Greek myth is that of Theseus and the Minotaur.  As the story goes, King Minos of Crete, after an attack on Athens, was asked by the Athenian king for a truce.  In return for peace in Athens, every nine years the Athenian king would send seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls to Crete as food for The Minotaur in its labyrinth.

Now before you click the "New Tab" button on your browser, wondering all the while why RefinED Character chose its first blog post to feature children fed to an evil monster, in those classic words, I'll beg, "Let me explain."

Prince Theseus of Athens meant to keep his country's word, but he did not want innocent children sacrificed.  He therefore volunteered as the seventh son of Athens, his sights set on slaying the Minotaur.

When he arrived, King Minos' daughter, Ariadne, found Theseus quite a catch.  In secret, she provided him with a ball of string and a sword so that he might navigate the labyrinth, slay the Minotaur, free the children, and take her with him on his departure from Crete.

Those of us devoted to social emotional education know our students bravely face their own unique labyrinth.  Within it, a Minotaur waits.  That Minotaur perhaps is persistent bullying, a feeling of isolation, an attack on self-esteem, a learning disability.  We, as educators, can't enter that labyrinth with them--we don't walk in their same shoes, we don't exist in their same world. They must enter it alone.  

Our job is to, as Ariadne did, give them the string and the sword.  The string, or healthy connection, to find their way back from the labyrinth depths to a life of social and emotional safety.  The sword, or resilience, to symbolically slay that Minotaur in their way.  In the best cases, our students use the string and sword so well, they help lead their peers from their own labyrinths.  

At the conclusion of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus, having slain the Minotaur and freed the children, kept his word and took Ariadne with him from Crete.  Partway home to Athens, though, he left her behind on an island as she slept. And isn't that how it should be?  We remain while our students sail off, victorious and strong.

Be well,


In : Why Social Emotional Education? 

Tags: "social emotional"  resilience  bullying  "self-esteem"  educators  teachers  students  "refined character"