When I first started teaching in an American-style international school in Hong Kong, I was told by a senior school administrator that I displayed what he described as, 'Commonwealth thinking'. Two years later, I am still trying to come to grips with what he might have meant. Was my colleague trying to be politically sensitive in not describing my Australian ways as 'British', or even, 'colonial'? Whatever it was, it was clearly up to me to explore some alternative paradigms. As I started to look back over what I had believed to be a very diverse teaching career, spanning schools in Australia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Brunei and Hong Kong, I had to acknowledge that I had never taught outside a Commonwealth education system. What was it that gave me away as a 'Commonwealth thinker'? What new perspectives would I need to explore? Are there really deep-level differences between Commonwealth and American-style educations? I do not pretend to have any ready answers to these questions, but I certainly feel challenged to seek them out. After only two years in an American international secondary school, it is very much 'early days' for me. Probably the most immediately obvious difference is the role played by externally moderated examinations. Most Commonwealth education systems still bear the imprint of the old British O and A-level examinations. Accompanying these exams is the underlying belief that, somehow, such external assessments are a great 'leveller' - and that levelling, itself, is important. The different style and reduced importance of culminating exams in the American system certainly make for a very different end-of-year experience for senior secondary students. Combined with early acceptance at college and a myriad of post-secondary educational pathways, the last month at an American-style high school seems far more relaxed. Another systemic difference is the almost overwhelming verbal confidence that so many young American students display. I am not denying for a moment that many, many Commonwealth students also display great confidence in public speaking, but I am suggesting that their skills in this area are, perhaps, more formal. At my American-style school, I have discovered the absolutely central place that classroom discussion has in every lesson. I continue to be amazed at the chairmanship skills of my American colleagues, who can productively lead and direct a whole-class discussion with maximum participation for far longer than I am yet able to. Perhaps these group discussion skills have something to do with the fiercely individualistic nature of American society, where speaking one's mind carries a fairly low risk of 'loss of face' or the accusation of being a 'smart alec'. Another feature of American school life is the high level of student-teacher negotiation. I find myself 'striking deals' with students throughout most of a teaching day. Thanks to my senior colleague, I am embarking on a fascinating journey of cross-cultural exploration that I might have missed had he not challenged the very fundamentals of my worldview. Pauline Bunce, a former NET, teaches humanities in an American-style international school.