Teaching teenagers is harder than studying law at Harvard, says ex-English teacher in viral TikTok

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By Adam Mawardi on

Second year law student Rachel Cohen says her stress was higher before switching careers

Second year Harvard law student Rachel Cohen

Studying at Harvard Law School isn’t as tough as teaching high school students, a former teacher has claimed in a viral TikTok video.

Second year law student Rachel Cohen — who spent nearly four years teaching before enrolling at Harvard in 2019, according to her LinkedIn — compared the two unique experiences in a TikTok video which has received over 72,000 views (embedded below).


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Cohen began by saying that while Harvard is “intellectually challenging and stimulating”, it is also the “lowest stakes environment”. But before carrying on, Cohen checked her own privilege.

“I do want to preface and say I have a lot of privilege, because while I am the first in my family to go to an Ivy League institution, both of my parents have professional degrees and I am a white woman, and I don’t struggle with imposter syndrome,” says Cohen, before recognising she doesn’t have to take care of family members or have the pressure of doing so in the future.

With those “pretty major caveats” in mind, Cohen continues with her comparison. “The fact of the matter is Harvard is the lowest stakes place on the planet. You did the hard thing: you got in. You’ll get a job, you’re going to be fine,” she tells her fellow TikTokers.

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By contrast, being a high school teacher, Cohen continues, “is like the highest stakes job on the planet”. Whereas the law is “functionally made up”, the lives of children “are like the realest thing on the planet”, she adds.

“The stress that I was under as a high school teacher with other people’s lives literally dependent on mine, is far higher than the stress I have [at Harvard Law School],” concludes Cohen, who taught English literature.

Asked in another TikTok video why she switched careers from teaching to law, Cohen explained she felt “burned out” and realised she prefers “creative argument constructions” rather than “creating lesson plans”. Elsewhere, Cohen has revealed she hopes to pursue corporate law, with a strong pro bono practice.

Cohen has been approached for comment.

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