. . . I’m wondering if I should send the following e-mail to the dozen or so students who warm the chairs in my Wednesday night course:
As some of you might have noticed, I was not at all happy with our class session this evening. I understand that the text load for this course is quite heavy; I also understand that each of you has a life outside History XXX that makes a variety of more interesting and lucrative demands on your time. Quite honestly, though, it’s an utter waste of an evening — for all of us — when the vast majority of students show up and give no indication of having even started the assigned readings for that week. If this were the first time, I wouldn’t bother firing off an e-mail about it. But this is an ongoing problem, and I’m well beyond the point of irritation.
We have three class sessions left before the end of the semester. If you honestly can’t find the time or the motivation to do the work for this course, I’d recommend doing something else with your Wednesday evenings.
Since context is everything, I’ll simply note that they had an entire week to read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle — or the book’s SparkNotes — and failed in spectacular fashion.
UPDATE: I really enjoyed reading this thread — thanks for the suggestions and critiques. I agree with folks like aimai who pointed out the passive aggressive nature of e-mails like this, and if the group met two or three times a week, I’d just wait until next session and give The Speech. I wound up sending an amended version of this e-mail, though, primarily because the class meets once a week, and I think there’s still time to salvage the semester. This group has been pretty accommodating this semester, with my father’s illness and death causing several cancellations; for whatever reason, my early-semester explanations of how to do well in an upper-division history course seem not to have survived the disruption.