When I founded the charity, Pencils Community in 2015, my focus was on getting educational supplies to as many impoverished children in Australian indigenous communities and third world countries around the globe as possible.
What started first as just an idea, quickly turned into a social enterprise and with my daughter (then 6 years old) , we officially formed the charity. We were able to get millions of pencils to children around the globe with the help of an amazing volunteer team and network, reaching over 30 countries with the simple idea that a child with a resource could become educated and "change the colour of their world".
Throughout this time, I was able to go to many schools and organisations and I began to educate those about our charity and why it was so important for the continuation of education. I began to mentor many students and adults about the importance of education being the ultimate tool for oneself and for gaining a pathway out of poverty. We also discussed many subjects that were pertinent to Pencils Community such as recycling and re-purposing items like pencils and educational resources. The most important lesson that we covered however, was the lesson of giving back and how it could help impact ones mental well-being and emotional health.
I was lucky enough to travel around Victoria and Tasmania talking in schools about Pencils Community, I noticed that many of my keenest students were neurodiverse and had a passion for helping other children at the same time finding a project they could really understand, sink their teeth into and flourish in. I could also see that this unique experience helped boost their self-confidence and many achieved feats they would not have otherwise attempted, such as getting up in front of their class or assembly and speaking about Pencils Community and being Pencil Ambassadors for their classroom and school.
As a result, I could see there was more work to be done here than just my initial concept of supplying much needed resources to children to assist with their education. From here my daughter and I handed over our beloved Pencils Community in 2020 to some wonderful new custodians and friends so I could spend time to focus on my new project, that being of "Conscious Education".
My passion of "Conscious Education" was born out of my own creative learning discovery, which is the very essence of conscious education in the first place.
Combining my previous years of formal education in private colleges, Uni's and TAFE, as well as my experience with my company's (Cindication) clients from the mental health, wellness and wellbeing sector, I felt equipped to handle this new 'spark' of mine.
Coupled with my own lived in experience of neurodiversity, I set about studying and learning more, through the likes of Sir Ken Robinson and other progressive education thought leaders on the importance of the way in which we have done school in the past and why it isn't working for our children now, particularly for their emotional and mental health.
With a strong need for a more inclusive environment that is more representative of our world (inclusive of all marginalised students) and the ability to understand each individuals diverse learning needs rather than en masse, better overall health outcomes can be achieved so they can grow up to be happier and healthier.
My focus is now to challenge the way in which we "do school" and to advise, participate at the discussion table, and ultimately help reform our education system so that it is progressive and less of a "system" and one that is more tailored to an individuals interests, learning styles and needs.
The longer-term vision of progressive education is to improve a love of learning and student engagement and to set about decreasing the enormously dangerous statistics we see around the world (particularly in marginalised children), of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
Cindy Rochstein, Conscious Educator & Founder of Pencils Community