Jason Eldridge • My CLEAR Story

CLEAR has always been a part of my full time teaching career. First, you might need a little background. Rev Hillstrom and I met at Normandale Community College in the early 2000’s. We both were looking to get our music degrees. I was always destined for teaching. He had been a top music producer, engineer, and live performer for many years. We hit it off quick and within a year had already formed a study group in his old recording studio in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. It was there we forged a bond that has lasted two decades now. As we both transitioned to four year institutions to complete our degrees, he went to Augsburg and I went to the University of Wisconsin in River Falls. It became clear that we were meant to play music, and learn from each for a very long time. When Rev began his doctorate in Duluth, he landed a gig playing for a local brewpub. I was invited to play along on the first Friday of each month. 

In those five or so hours between the Twin Cities, Duluth, and back, some of the major tenets of the CLEAR model and the Capacity Equation first came to light. Dr. Hillstrom shared one of his earliest concepts with me to try in my first full time 5th grade classroom. It was called the 4R equation. It simply states that if you add relevance  and realness together, multiplied by an authentic relationship with the students you can  achieve rigor (R+R)xR=R). I wrote that simple equation on a hot pink post-it note that stood by me all throughout those first four years. I posted it to the left of my computer on the side of my inbox on my desk. It glared at me and forced me to truly think about what I was teaching, why I was teaching it, and who I was teaching it to. If I could not find the answers to those simple questions, then I had to change what I was trying to do, because those R’s made a truly impactful difference in my teaching style and my ability to reach students. 

After those four years teaching fifth grade, I had a wonderful opportunity to work for the same district as Dr. Hillstrom where I saw his CLEAR Model and capacity equation being lived to the fullest. Each training brought forth a memory of where that idea came from and when it had first been thrust out of his mind into the hands of willing educators. I will always believe in my mind that I was the first and foremost test subject for Dr. Hillstrom’s  models and practices. They have become a vital aspect of my daily planning, my minute to minute interactions with students, coworkers, and staff. The CLEAR Model and Capacity Equation need to be taken wholly and with intentionality to become a new way of teaching, and in essence, learning about yourself and your students.