Embrace your t-shirt making phase


Planet money has a podcast about making their own t-shirts and note that most counties go through a t-shirt making phase. The idea is, as countries develope they go through a phase making t-shirts.  Making shirts is as easy as getting textiles, a few dozen sewing machines, and giving the limited training required. The path has been from England to the United States of America and then India,  and now China.

A group of student teachers I’ve mentored graduate from the College of Education this week. They’ve worked hard and are ready to find their own careers but are realizing that the jobs in their choice districts are extremely competitive.  Where it would seem there are many teachers retiring and ample jobs turns into a situation where not quite so many retire and there are ten candidates for each position.

Becoming really good at something takes time doing that thing in -often – less than ideal conditions.  My dad always said that Navy pilots had no trouble leaving the military because all the major airlines wanted them.  Their ‘apprenticeship’ flying harrier jets over war zones built up a set of skills they could draw on later.  Countries growing economically had the same experience – they had people with limited capital and t-shirts was what they could make. It will be the same with my former student teachers – they will likely enter their t-shirt phase upon graduation.

It’s always hard to remember this.  We think we finish something and then boom – expert.  Not so.  I’ve graduated college twice but don’t feel like I’ve done a complete t-shirt phase in either career.  In writing here and other places I’m certainly in that phase but recognizing the changes.

If you haven’t listed to Planet Money before, it’s one of my favorite podcasts.  Recent episodes ask questions like; Why can’t a Dum Dum sucker company in Ohio save $4 million a year, What does North Korea export (answer: real guns and fake money), and What does it take to make a t-shirt?  The final one is a great story and even has a Kickstarter campaign.


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